ELECTION 2014: San Francisco-area locales to vote on transportation questions

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/1/2014

Fall ballots in communities in and around San Francisco are set to include questions that cover the use of bonds and sales taxes to benefit roads.

Alameda County voters will be asked once again whether to double the transportation sales tax.

In 2012, voters throughout the county failed to approve a nearly identical effort to double the sales tax from one-half cent to 1 cent. Measure B1 came up about 720 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass tax questions.

This year’s version, Measure BB, would raise $7.8 billion for projects that include pothole repair, freeway and transit improvements. Specifically, $677 million would be used to improve major freeways and highways; $2.3 billion would be applied to city and county roads; and $2.8 billion would be routed to the Bay Area Rapid Transit, bus, ferries and commuter trains.

The tax increase would end in 30 years. The 2012 version made the tax increase permanent.

Voters in one Alameda County community will decide whether to continue collecting a 9.5 percent sales tax for 10 years. In the city of Union, voters can continue a four-year-old half-cent tax increase that is scheduled to expire next April.

Measure JJ would continue to earmark the half-cent tax for general purposes in the city, including road work.

In San Francisco, two transportation questions are on the city ballot.

Proposition A will ask voters about a $500 million transportation infrastructure bond backed by property taxes to benefit transit.

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee said that improvements are necessary to accommodate the city’s population, which is projected to top 1 million by 2040 – up from the current 837,000 count. In addition, he said that property taxes will not increase because other debt is set to retire.

A two-thirds majority vote is needed to pass.

Proposition B would amend the city charter to require the city to increase the base contribution to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency by a percentage equal to the city’s annual population increase.

Across the San Francisco Bay in Marin County, voters in the city of Sausalito will decide whether to enact a half-cent sales tax for 10 years. Measure O on the ballot would raise the total sales tax from 8.5 percent to 9 percent.

All revenue from the increase would be routed into the city’s general fund. A portion of the revenue would be used for street maintenance and pothole repairs.

Advocates say the money is needed to help address hillside roads that are “riddled with cracks.” In an argument sheet in favor of the ballot question, they say voting “yes on O fixes the streets in the worst condition, which put motorists, cyclists and emergency vehicles at risk.”

Opponents say the tax increase is unnecessary. Instead, the city needs to do a better job with tax revenue already available.

Three locales in Contra Costa County are set to decide on sales tax questions that would benefit projects that include road work.

In Concord, ballots will include a question about whether to extend a half-cent sales tax for nine years. Otherwise, it will expire in spring 2016. Measure Q would route the additional funding to projects that include street and pothole repairs.

Down the road in Richmond, voters will decide whether to impose a half-cent sales tax to mostly pay for street paving. Measure U would increase the city’s sales tax from 9 percent to 9.5 percent and generate $7 million annually.

A short drive north along Interstate 80 in Pinole, voters will also cast ballots that include a question about whether to enact a half-cent sales tax. Measure S would benefit projects that include street repairs.

One Contra Costa County community will choose whether to increase the local sales tax. In the city of Benicia, voters will decide whether to approve a 1-cent sales tax increase to benefit projects that include repairing 250 damaged sections of roads throughout the city.

Measure C would increase the city’s sales tax rate from 7.625 percent to 8.625 percent starting in April 2015. It is estimated to raise $3.7 million for local projects.

Voters in Half Moon Bay will decide whether to renew a half-cent sales tax for projects that include street improvements for three more years.

Measure O on the ballot would continue to route about $700,000 a year into the city’s general fund. A portion of the revenue would be earmarked for street repaving.

Supporters say the sales tax increase that took effect a year ago has allowed the city to repave 17 miles of degrading streets. They say that renewing the tax for an additional three years, until 2019, would allow them to finish the other 10 miles of street maintenance.

Opponents say the community already levies the second highest sales tax rate in the state at 9.5 percent. They question whether the city needs more tax money to get needed work done.

For more 2014 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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