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Rabid anti-tax, carpetbagging libertarians blast SMART tax

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  • 10/25 Marin IJ
    Published Wednesday, October 25, 2006, by the Marin Independent Journal Rail tax standoff By Mark Prado [Photo caption: Adrian Moore (left), who opposes using
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2006
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      Published Wednesday, October 25, 2006, by the Marin Independent Journal

      Rail tax standoff

      By Mark Prado

      [Photo caption: Adrian Moore (left), who opposes using federal money
      for a rail line, faces off with supporters of Measure R on the
      ballots in Marin and Sonoma on Nov. 7. A group called Americans for
      Prosperity brought its anti-government spending campaign to Larkspur
      on Tuesday to protest the North Bay train plan.]

      A Washington D.C.-based, anti-tax group barnstormed into Marin on
      Tuesday to protest the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit plan as a
      waste of money, and found itself flanked by noisy, sign-waving
      train supporters at a news conference in Larkspur.

      Americans for Prosperity <http://www.americansforprosperity.org> --
      a nonprofit, grassroots, anti-government spending group -- brought
      its "Taxpayer Trust Tour" to Larkspur to protest the SMART program.
      The Marin stop was part of a statewide seven-city tour, which was
      launched in Sacramento on Monday by the group to speak out against
      various ballot issues.

      "It's not an efficient use of taxpayer money," said Tim Phillips,
      president of Americans for Prosperity, speaking of federal grants
      for SMART, prior to his group's news conference along train tracks
      near the Marin Airporter.

      "If the local county wants to pass a tax increase themselves,
      more power to them," he said, referring to the proposed sales
      tax increase. "But to have $110 million in (supplemental) federal
      dollars for a SMART project that will have (few) riders each day
      at a time when there are other priorities, such as health care and
      education, is not wise."

      Soon, Phillips was surrounded by train supporters who peppered him
      with questions about his stance.

      Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation <http://www.reason.org> -- a
      nonprofit think tank promoting free markets -- joined the spirited
      impromptu debate, saying if locals wanted a train they need to do it
      without federal dollars.

      "They can pay for it on their own -- pass a half-cent sales tax and
      it will pay for itself," he said. "This is a rail system that will
      carry a trivial number of people."

      Coy Smith, CEO of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, countered there
      is nothing wrong with getting federal money to pay for the train.

      [Photo caption: Walter Strakosch holds a sign in support of ballot
      Measure R on Tuesday in Larkspur.]

      "We live in this county, we should have the right to decide what
      transportation system we need for our workforce and community.
      Federal dollars go all over California and sometimes federal
      dollars need to come to Marin."

      On Nov. 7, voters will decide whether to approve Measure R, a
      20-year, quarter-cent sales tax for a 70-mile rail line from
      Cloverdale to Larkspur that would cost an estimated $387 million
      to build, with annual operating and maintenance costs estimated at
      $17.6 million. The cost of the proposed bicycle and pedestrian path
      that would run adjacent to the rail is estimated at $80.4 million.
      The measure will have to garner a two-thirds vote to pass.

      Once the news conference started, anti-train advocates found
      themselves flanked by SMART supporters who held green signs, chimed
      in with comments and applause, briefly interrupting speakers, and
      started a mantra-like cheer: "Think SMART, yes on R, SMART train
      will take us far," at the event's conclusion.

      The event mirrored a pro-SMART rally in August in San Rafael, when
      local protesters showed up to voice opposition to the rail plan.

      Moore suggested that freeway expansion is the only way to deal with
      increased congestion in the Marin-Sonoma corridor.

      "These guys are classic, they come in from out of state and want
      more L.A.," scoffed train backer David Schonbrunn.

      SMART FUNDING SOURCE

      Sales tax..............................66 percent
      State funding..........................10 percent
      Fare revenue............................9 percent
      Federal funding.........................6 percent
      Regional Measure 2 state
      bridge toll increase....................3 percent
      Sonoma County Measure M
      sales tax increase .....................2 percent
      Station related development.............2 percent
      Lease revenue...........................1 percent
      North Coast Rail Authority..............1 percent

      Source: Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit

      Contact Mark Prado via e-mail at mprado@...
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