Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brown Signs Wieckowski Bill Giving County Voters A Chance to Raise Sales Tax

Sept. 27, 2011 | Voters in Alameda County may have a unique opportunity to raise sales tax revenues to support transportation after Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski's bill effectively giving the county a one-time waiver to approve any further increases.

If successfully passed next fall, the additional tax could add up to $144 million in new revenue by 2014, according to a legislative analysis performed by the state Board of Equalization. All proceeds, according to the bill, will be set aside for numerous long-term county transportation projects.

State law places a two percent cap on county-wide sales and use taxes. But, after voters in Union City approved a half-cent sales tax increase it put the county's cumulative total precariously close to the cap. Without the Wieckowski's bill, any future county sales tax measures would have nudged the county over the legal threshold. San Leandro voters also passed a quarter percent sales tax increase last November.

The legislation signed Monday by Brown gives Alameda County a one-time only opportunity to pass a proposed half-cent sales tax increase through referendum on the November 2012 ballot. A two-thirds majority will be needed for passage during a presidential election year surely to feature high voter turnout.

Senate Republican argued earlier this month the bill would reduce jobs and further hamper the state's economy. "Today, Alameda County wants a waiver for more taxes, tomorrow it’ll be Los Angeles County," said Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar). "This bill sets a bad precedent.”

Although the bill makes no mention to specific infrastructure projects, Wieckowski worked closely with the Alameda County Transportation Commission, chaired by Union City Mayor Mark Green. The ACTC, which recently merged with two other county transportation boards, has approved a host of freeway and streetscape improvements in Alameda County, including major transit plans such as BART's Oakland Airport connector and Warm Springs extension in Fremont.


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