Who Will Lead the Silicon Valley Transportation Tax Effort?

Breaking up is hard to do, except in election years. Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and county Supervisor Cindy Chavez have do-si-doed on tax measures in the past, but the music stopped last year after Guardino threw his unabashed support behind his best bro Sam Liccardo in the San Jose mayor’s race. Chavez went all-in for county Board of Supervisors colleague Dave Cortese. Things have since smoothed out, as Chavez is no longer sending Guardino’s calls to VM. That reconciliation, however, could be put to the test. The Leadership Group conducted polling at the end of May and found that 68 percent of respondents supported a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase to improve local transportation infrastructure; a quarter-cent hike fared a bit better with 71 percent approving. Chavez serves as vice chair of the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), and on Tuesday she and her colleagues heard Guardino’s pitch for putting a measure on the ballot November 2016. VTA is a public agency, so it can’t run the campaign. As a result, a bevy of suitors are expected to push for control of the organizing committee to fix potholes, improve transit services for vulnerable residents and extend BART to downtown San Jose, amongst other proposals. Guardino might find himself up against “personal friend” Ben Field, CEO of the South Bay Labor Council, which has apparently been doing its own polling. Labor purportedly prefers broader language on how the funds would be distributed. Guardino touts the fact that he has coordinated four successful transportation ballot measures in the past—all but one had the support of the South Bay Labor Council—and he’s drawing a couple lines in the sand. The Leadership Group insists it won’t lend its support to any initiative unless it has clearly defined projects, which requires two-thirds of the vote, and the measure must be placed on the November ballot to ensure more supportive turnout.

Notes: The Silicon Valley leadership Group polling had some pretty interesting results on what people in Santa Clara County want, and some of those results were shared with San Jose Inside. Here are some of the numbers:

  • Traffic is the great uniter in more ways than one—88 percent of people polled somewhat support or strongly support reducing traffic congestion.
  • More than 80 percent of people polled support providing more after-school tutoring programs for youth, the building of new water recycling plants for drinking water, finishing the BART extension to San Jose and Santa Clara, and building more affordable housing.
  • People are down on building a new downtown ballpark to move the Oakland A's to San Jose. Just 29 percent of people supported such a project.
  • The high-speed rail project has also lost momentum, as only 54 percent said they support construction of a line between NorCal and SoCal.

San Jose-specific questions showed some other interesting results:

  • 86 percent of people polled in San Jose favor sending ambulances rather than "large fire trucks" to medical emergencies to improve response times.
  • 71 percent favor a rent control law that limits rent increases to no more than 2 percent a year.
  • 55 percent favor increasing the city sales tax to restore budget cuts and hire more police.

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  1. Here comes Carl Guardino and merry band of crony capitalists at the grossly misnamed “Silicon Valley ‘Leadership’ Group,” hoping to sucker those of modest means into raising their taxes once again, despite the fact that voters have already done so multiple times. Over the last several elections, voters in Santa Clara County have passed multiple tax and fee increases including VTA’s 2000 Measure A ½-cent and 2008 measure B ¼-cent sales taxes, Santa Clara County’s Measure A 1/8 cent sales tax, the state prop 30 ¼ cent sales tax and the 2010 Measure B Vehicle Registration Fee of $10. Additionally, we’re on the hook to pay back numerous state bond issues including high speed rail, last year’s Proposition 1 water bond and the infrastructure bonds of 2006.

    All of this nickel and diming has contributed into making the Bay Area a horribly expensive place to live; especially for people of modest means, who must pay the greatest percentage of their income in these regressive taxes and fees. Each increase by itself does not amount to much, say a quarter cent, but the cumulative effect is to add to the unaffordability of the region.

    Before increasing taxes YET AGAIN, waste needs to be removed from transportation projects. For example, VTA needs to eliminate waste and “gold plating” of its capital projects. The BART extension’s cost could be cut by reducing the scope to eliminate duplicate facilities. Specifically, a revised “build alternative” needs to be added to the study that eliminates the duplicative and wasteful section between the San Jose and Santa Clara Caltrain stations. The BART segment from the San Jose to Santa Clara Caltrain stations would duplicate both the existing Caltrain line and VTA’s 22 and 522 buses to a station that has only 900 riders. This is extremely wasteful and sends the wrong message to voters who will be asked to approve more sales tax increases in 2016. This is extremely insulting considering recent voter approval of all the taxes/fees listed above.

    Why don’t the wealthy high-rollers in the “Leadership Group” suggest taxing their rich companies and leave the little guy alone for a change?

    • What, and chase the wealthy employee, job creating, traffic jam producing crony capitalist corporations to Texas?

      Maybe if we spent 80% of all that money on the roads as it was pedaled to us, instead of 80% on light rail projects and high speed rail roads from nowhere to nowhere.

      How about fixing traffic light system that stops 30 cars for one guy on a side street or light rail train with 3 people on it.
      This is Silicon Valley, can’t we get someone from Apple to fix a traffic lights?

  2. This makes me sick. We already pay enough in taxes. Let them make do with what they already collect. Sheesh. Not everyone works at Google making tons of money. Plenty of people struggle to get by as it is. If Carl Guardino wants money, let him organize a St. Jude-style pledge drive and get all his high-tech honcho cronies to pony up.

    And don’t even get me started on all the high-density housing.

  3. Governor Moonbeam II, and most of his predecessors, always raid the gas tax money to balance the general fund budget. The taxpayers need to put a stop to that.

  4. “ the top 20 percent of Americans earn 53.4 percent of the total U.S. income, but pay 67.2 percent of total income tax [source: Tax Policy Center, a non-partisan research group].” 53% of all Americans pay no Federal income tax at all. California’s nine state income tax rates range from 1 percent to 12.3 percent. The Golden State also assesses a 1 percent surcharge on taxable incomes of $1 million or more. Nearly half (47.8 percent) of the $115.2 billion collected by California’s state government in 2011-12 were from the personal income tax, and another 35.9 percent came from taxes on sales, including a general sales and use tax and additional taxes on tobacco, fuel, and other specific goods and services. Property taxes accounted for nearly three-quarters (72.3 percent) of local government tax collections in 2011-12, and sales taxes accounted for an additional 21.3 percent. In 2012, the wealthiest 10 percent of households paid 80.4 percent of California’s personal income tax. [Source: California Budget and Policy Center.] As an aside, the 2012 numbers are the latest ones available. In the computer age, why are government statistics always so old? You input the data for the year, and on January 1 you should be able to push a button and have the final year’s numbers available immediately. But I digress. Those high income folks who pay the vast majority of taxes use far fewer taxpayer funded services than the low income folks, who use them all. In California, add to the equation the huge numbers of illegal immigrants who either don’t work or get paid under the table, and you have a huge group of folks who contribute nothing by way of taxes, but suck up billions in services they do not pay for in any way, shape, or form. Those who work “on the books” usually make so little that they pay no taxes either, but they too are sucking up taxpayer paid services at no charge to them. Many years ago Bob Sillen, former head of Valley Med, told me that for every $5.00 increase in the co-pay at the county’s non-emergency clinics there was a 20%-25% drop in the number of people seeking non-emergency treatment. So, next time there is a call for yet another road tax, ask your representatives why so much money gets spent on illegals and their families, while those of us who pay most of the taxes can’t drive to work on decent roads?

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