Split Santa Clara County Supervisor Vote Kills Sales Tax Plan for COVID-19 Deficits

The verdict’s in. There will be no proposal for a 0.625-cent increase in the Santa Clara County sales tax on the Nov. 3 ballot after all.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday fell one vote short in a bid led by Board President Cindy Chavez to place a simple-majority tax measure on the fall ballot.

Dire warnings of annual deficits of up to $600 million, “probably thousands” of county layoffs, a mushrooming homeless population, children with no daycare, and “the looming devastation of a recession” failed to convince Supervisors Mike Wasserman and Joe Simitian that a tax boost was needed.

“There is no guarantee that any of these funds will be used” for the specific public health, small business or family needs attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Simitian.

“We don’t know how long this thing will last – hopefully things will look better in six months,” said Wasserman, preferring optimism to the ominous forecasts of County Executive Jeff Smith. Wasserman is the lone Republican on the board.

“What we’re talking about is trying to be responsive to the neediest people in our community,” pleaded Chavez. “I’d like to head off as much suffering as we can.”

Chavez and Supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Dave Cortese voted in favor of the measure to ask voters in November to approve increasing the county sales tax to 9.625 percent, from its current 9 percent, in 2021.

The rejected plan would have required only a simple majority at the polls for approval. After the vote, Chavez pulled an alternative referendum—one that needed only three supervisor votes but two-thirds approval of county voters—off the agenda, expressing doubts it could pass in November. This approach, for a special tax, would have required the county to limit any spending to specific programs and purposes.

Ellenberg said a county poll showed that pandemic-related sales tax increase has nearly 67 percent public support.

Smith told supervisors that budget reserves could make up for deficits in 2020-21, but that continuing shortfalls related to increased public health and social services costs to combat the pandemic would require significant layoffs in subsequent years.

The supervisors did agree unanimously to endorse a plan to place a Bay-Area-wide one-eighth-cent—0.125 percent—sales tax on the Nov. 3 ballot to bail out CalTrain.

San Mateo County has already supported the measure, and it is being considered by the MUNI board on Wednesday, the Joint Powers Authority and VTA boards on Thursday and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Friday.


  1. I am Glad this tax is out! All CINDY Chavez was trying to do was to keep financially supporting the high salaries of local non-profits CEOs and executives. The public hardly see these direct benefits. On the other hand, every person in this county would have paid for that extra tax even those having difficulty buying food. It is time the county and those organizations start cutting unnecessary job positions and those staying actually work! The county and those from those agencies spend too much time in PR and social event cost by the county directly or indirectly. It is time the supervisors themselves cut the number of staff working for them too. Those who will loose their job can find something else like the rest of the people in the county. Cindy Chavez will have to find other means of supporting her monopoly. Many of those agencies have lost clients due to their typical bad services. Since they can no longer benefit from the county based on productivity, they will hoping for this tax. I am a democrat and typical favor tax increase that I feel will benefit the public. This tax was just Cindy Chavez’s BS! It is time to cut spending and do the work for once!

  2. > I am a democrat and typical favor tax increase that I feel will benefit the public.


    The California Democratic Party is a TOP DOWN oligarchy. It hasn’t been a political party for a LONG time.

    Democrat office holders DO NOT work for voters — Democrat or otherwise. They work for the Getty/Brown/Pelosi/Newsom oligarchy.

    California has reverted to a DUOPOLY – Democrats, and NOT Democrats.

    You can still be a “democrat” without being a Democrat.

    Time to dump the oligarchy.

    #WalkAwayFrom Democrats

  3. FEXXNIST makes good points. The average working stiff in this County already pays about half their earned income in federal, state, and local taxes. Half! But every election TPTB put their hand out like panhandlers, begging for more, more, more of our money. Always more!

    And it was predictable that Ellenberg would serve the Party, not We The People. She had a clear choice in this vote. As a newbie, it didn’t take long for her to side with the clique of elected beggers against the public. We’re always expected to pay the freight.

    But for what? For higher salaries? To pay off special interests, like so-called “non-profits” that have their self-serving fingers deep into our wallets? There’s far too much of that already, but some of them want even more.

    Where is the public in their priorities? Is our job to pay and pay, and never question what they’re doing? Is there nowhere they can cut spending? Is every tax dollar they confiscate being spent wisely and efficiently? Are they doing the job they were elected to do — making Santa Clara County a better place to live for its residents — or are they lining the pockets of their pals and themselves?

    There is far too much waste, fraud and abuse of our tax dollars. There are plenty of places they can cut spending before raising our taxes… again.

    The Board of Supervisors and the sycophant/beggers always clinging to them need to show taxpayers they’re doing a good job before they put their hands out for more of our income. There’s an immense pile of waste and inefficiency that can be eliminated right now. Start there before telling us you need even more of our earnings. You’re supposed to be serving us, not vice-versa.

    Let’s see you cut unnecessary spending before begging for more of our money. That’s your job. If you don’t know where to cut, you can start with the loot you’re handing out to special interests.

    Reduce or eliminate the spending that doesn’t serve the general public. If you do you’ll have a mountain of money available. Re-direct it into serving We The People, instead of serving yourselves and the sycophants surrounding you that creates a solid barrier between you and the public you’re supposed to represent. You can’t serve two masters; decide which one gets your loyalty. Currently, you’re serving the wrong master.

    Your job description doesn’t include begging, so stop it. Instead, do what you were elected to do with the ample tax receipts you already enjoy. And don’t conflate want and need; you don’t need more.

    You can beg for more money when all the potholes are filled. Until then, it’s simple: just do your job.

  4. Forget increasing sales tax. Cut unnecessary spending in the County. What happened to all the Measure A funds? The great profits of homelessness! Shame of you, Board of Supervisors! Looks like there are more homeless than ever, yet we continue to use local and federal funds for openings of projects with Cindy and her cheer squad front and center. A lot of words no action.

  5. First time in a long time that I have agreed with a Board of Supervisors action. Thank you, Wasserman and Simitian for your sensibility and long overdue concern for beaten up taxpayers.

  6. Thank you Supervisors Wasserman & Simitian for rejecting a big tax increase that would be implemented as people struggle to recover from a once-a-century pandemic. During the last downturn – the Great Recession – the County Board of Supervisors put a “temporary” tax on the ballot that raised $50 million to help keep County services intact. Once they got the new money, and the county’s coffers filled up to the point they exceeded pre-recession levels, they spent it on artwork, valet parking, new ‘offices of…” and more administrators in the County Executive’s office. Then they went to the voters in the good times and voters made the “temporary” $50 million per year tax PERMANENT. It’s a relief that the taxpayers won’t get soaked again to pay for more County bureaucracy and feel-good programs that don’t address the biggest issues in our community.

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