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SCCo. pols, SVLG scheming to sell another SJ BART tax

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  • 9/9 Gilroy Dispatch
    Published Friday, September 9, 2005, in the Gilroy Dispatch Tax Push For BART By Matt King Politicians and transportation planners have begun crafting a public
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 9, 2005
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      Published Friday, September 9, 2005, in the Gilroy Dispatch

      Tax Push For BART

      By Matt King

      Politicians and transportation planners have begun crafting a public
      relations strategy for a new sales tax to bring BART to Silicon
      Valley, though it may prove impossible to sell voters the same
      transit projects a second time.

      The working strategy consists of filling a new tax measure with the
      kind of broad promises made in 2000, when voters overwhelmingly
      approved Measure A, which offered BART and a variety of other
      transit projects, including more Caltrain service for South County.
      New proposals offer virtually the same package at a greater cost to
      taxpayers.

      "There's no question that this is more of an exercise in trying
      to look good than actually solve the problem," Mountain View City
      Councilman Greg Perry said Thursday. "If the VTA can build all
      of the projects in Measure A, more power to them. It's the least
      efficient transportation agency in California and doesn't deserve
      another red cent."

      But for all the promises of Measure A, a new tax is needed to simply
      to avoid further service cuts, Santa Clara County Supervisor Don
      Gage said Thursday. Measure A called for more Caltrain service to
      Gilroy, but since it passed, daily service has been cut by 40
      percent. And Gage, who also sits on the VTA board, suggested that
      economic conditions make a new tax measure a long shot.

      "Everybody and their kid brother is looking to put a sales tax
      measure on the ballot and the voters aren't going to have it," Gage
      said. "If they're going to do it, it better have something for
      everybody or it's never going to pass. In 2000, everyone had a job
      and the roads were gridlocked."

      So far, the proposal receiving the most support from politicians
      and the VTA is one from Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley
      Leadership Group, who says that the VTA can stretch tax revenue
      fund its share of the $5 billion BART project and deliver on other
      Measure A projects if it operates efficiently and is the beneficiary
      of a strong economy, more state funding, and a possible new tax on
      vehicle registrations.

      Under those conditions, the SVLG plan would build BART by 2018,
      complete Caltrain electrification and provide $717 million for local
      streets and roads programs.

      That plan was endorsed Thursday by the VTA's policy advisory
      committee, which comprises officials from the county and its
      15 cities, and will be taken up by the VTA board next week.

      But even in prime conditions the proposal would actually decrease
      Caltrain funding, and it puts the Santa Clara Valley Transportation
      Authority in the red by the year 2038, when all projects would be
      complete. And though its proposed quarter-cent sales tax would
      expire in 2037, the plan is predicated on convincing voters to
      accept another tax increase before that happens. The VTA's internal
      assessment of the tax proposal says that voters won't approve it
      unless they believe that it's not permanent.

      Perry was one of three officials to vote against endorsing a sales
      tax. He believes the only beneficiaries of a new tax are San Jose,
      Milpitas and Santa Clara, the three cities where BART would run. But
      South County officials agree that if there's any hope of improving
      transit south of San Jose, a new tax is necessary.

      Morgan Hill Mayor Dennis Kennedy voted to endorse the quarter-cent
      tax measure, which the VTA projects would raise between $82 million
      and $301 million annually over its 30-year life.

      "I believe to deliver the projects we need to move forward," said
      Kennedy, who supports BART as long as the VTA will also fund
      additional Caltrain services in South County. Gilroy Mayor Al
      Pinheiro did not attend the meeting.

      This fall, the SVLG will conduct polls to gauge voter support for a
      measure, which would appear on the November 2006 ballot. In a SVLG
      poll conducted in the spring, a quarter-cent tax received about 61
      percent support, short of the two-thirds vote it would need to pass.
      A half-cent tax was roundly rejected.

      Laura Stuchinsky, transportation director for SVLG, said the group
      hasn't adopted a formal position on a tax, but Guardino has been
      lobbying officials to sell the idea to their constituents.

      "If the conditions are right to mount a campaign for a quarter-cent
      transportation sale tax ballot measure in November 2006, we will
      need the leadership and guidance of thoughtful elected officials
      such as yourself," Guardino wrote in an e-mail distributed to local
      politicians. "We hope you will join us in this effort."

      Online

      For more information, go to

      http://www.caltrain.com
      http://www.SVMG.org
      http://www.vta.org

      A copy of the VTA's Additional Measure A Revenue & Expenditure
      Scenarios is available at

      http://www.vta.org/inside/boards/packets/2005/09_sep/091605/3.pdf



      Matt King covers Santa Clara County for The Dispatch. He can be
      reached at 847-7240 or mking@...
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