California counties one step closer to transportation tax increases

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 6/18/2013

A bill to help clear the path for two counties to increase sales taxes for transportation is one vote away from clearing the California General Assembly.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee voted 5-2 to advance a bill to the chamber floor that would authorize Alameda and Contra Costa counties to put transportation measures on their ballots to boost funding for local infrastructure.

If approved by the full Senate, it would move to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. The Assembly already approved it on a 46-23 vote.

Officials in Alameda County want to take another crack at getting voters to double the local transportation sales tax to fix potholes, improve roads and freeways, and expand public transit throughout the county.

In November, an effort to permanently increase the local tax from one-half cent to one full cent was defeated despite 66.53 percent voting in favor of the change. The question fell just short of the necessary 66.67 percent threshold.

Contra Costa County voters last approved renewing their half-cent tax nearly a decade ago.

The counties cannot put transportation sales tax measures on the ballot without first getting an exemption from state lawmakers. The restriction is in place because some cities would be pushed above a local sales tax cap set by the state.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said it’s important to make sure the two counties have funds for future transportation projects that are critical to the East Bay region.

“This bill will enable these two counties to reach out to their residents and develop plans that reduce congestion, improve our roads, and provide transportation alternatives,” Wieckowski said in a news release.

AB210 would grant both counties the authority to exceed the cap if voters approve an increase by Dec. 31, 2020.

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