Two California counties closer to transportation tax increases

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/23/2013

A bill on its way to the governor would help clear the path for two California counties to increase sales taxes for transportation.

The Senate voted 25-12 to send a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown that would authorize Alameda and Contra Costa counties to put transportation measures on their ballots to boost funding for local infrastructure. Assembly lawmakers already approved it with 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 2012, 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 2 percent 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.

“(The bill) will put people to work, help commuters, and assist with the movement of goods from the Port of Oakland,” Wieckowski said in a news release.

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

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