California county given option to pursue tax increase

| Thursday, September 29, 2011

A new California law allows one county to ask voters for more transportation revenue while the governor vetoed a separate bill intended to benefit transit throughout the state.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill to authorize a vote in Alameda County on transportation funding.

Previously AB1086, the new law allows the county Transportation Commission to place a tax hike question on the November 2012 ballot.

The law was needed to provide a one-time exemption from the existing 2 percent cap on local sales taxes. Recent measures approved in San Leandro and Union City prevented a countywide measure because it would exceed the 2 percent cap.

Commissioners now can choose to ask voters to consider whether to increase the county’s sales tax by a half penny.

“This county is updating its transportation plan and this legislation gives it the option to ask voters to invest in long-term improvements,” Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said in a statement.

Gov. Brown opted against signing another transportation bill that was intended to benefit public transit.

AB650 called for establishing a blue ribbon task force to develop the first statewide public transportation development and financing plan. Financing for the group would have come from existing revenue devoted to transit planning through the state’s fuel tax.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, said the bill would have ended patchwork planning and made transit a more viable alternative.

The governor vetoed the bill, citing the $750,000 price tag for the task force to carry out their duties. Instead, he said the state already has a process in place to address the issue.

“This is a matter well within the jurisdiction and competence of the Assembly and Senate transportation committees,” Brown wrote in a veto message. “Moreover, Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission are also equipped to probe into these matters.”

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