California bill would ease transportation sales tax threshold

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/15/2013

The voter-approval threshold in California for transportation sales taxes could soon be eased.

In place since 1995, state law requires approval of two-thirds of voters in any city, county, or special district to pass transportation tax increases. Affected tax votes would include vehicle fees, bonds and sales taxes.

Sen. Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, wants to make it easier to pass efforts to boost transportation funding. She offered a proposed constitutional amendment that would lower the passage requirement for propositions to 55 percent of voters.

Supporters say the process to get tax votes approved needs to be simplified because needed projects around the state continue to stack up. They cite an Alameda County vote from last fall. Measure B1 was a 30-year, $7.7 billion initiative to fix potholes, improve roads and freeways, and expand public transit throughout the county.

The proposal to double the county’s one-half cent transportation sales tax received nearly 66 percent support. However, the margin of defeat was about 700 votes.

Advocates say the change is needed because the current system allows a one-third majority to prevent passage of any vote to raise revenue through taxes.

The legislation – SCA4 – is awaiting consideration in the Senate. If approved by lawmakers, it would go to voters for the 2014 fall election. A simple majority would be necessary for passage.

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