Alameda County Transportation Commission Sales Tax, Measure BB (November 2014)

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An Alameda County Transportation Commission Sales Tax, Measure BB ballot question is on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in Alameda County, California.

If approved, Measure BB implements a 30 year Transportation Expenditure Plan. The measure would renew the 0.5 percent transportation sales tax approved in 2000 and increase the tax by 0.5 percent. This would result in a 1 percent sales tax in the county dedicated to transportation expenses alone, which would expire in 2045 without voter renewal. The tax revenue from this tax is controlled by the Alameda County Transportation Commission.

The 30 year plan proposes $7.8 billion in spending to improve and maintain transportation infrastructure and systems in the county. The two largest portions of the spending consist of $3.7 billion for public transit and para-transit and $2.34 billion for street repair. A somewhat controversial expenditure of $400 million would be earmarked for a BART extension to Livermore. The priorities of the tax are to:[1][2]

  • Expand mass transit
  • Improve highway infrastructure
  • Improve local streets and roads
  • Improve bicycle and pedestrian safety
  • Expand special transportation for seniors and people with disabilities

A 2/3rds supermajority vote is required for the approval of Measure BB.

Background

The county tried to pass a similar measure in 2012 called Measure B1, which proposed an identical tax rate and spending bill. Measure B1, however, would have implemented a permanent tax, rather than the 30-year tax proposed by Measure BB. The narrowly defeated measure garnered "yes" votes from 66.53 percent of voters, but it required approval from 66.67 percent. Measure B1 fell short of approval by only 721 votes out of a total 527,403 that were cast.[2][1]

Officials, who saw the perpetuity of the 2012 attempt as the chief generator of opposition, decided to try again with a measure featuring an automatic expiration. County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, chairman of the Alameda County Transportation Commission, said, "We listened to the voters, and of a lot of them didn't like perpetuity [sic]. We have a good spending plan to reduce congestion and improve transportation. We're ready to go."[1]

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:[3]

Shall voters authorize implementing the Alameda County 30 year Transportation Expenditure Plan to:

Expand and modernize BART in Alameda County;
Improve transit connections to jobs and schools;
Fix roads, improve highways and increase bicycle and pedestrian safety;
Reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality; and
Keep senior, student, and disabled fares affordable?

Approval augments by ½ cent and extends the existing County sales tax, with independent oversight and audits. All money will benefit local residents.[4]

Support

Yes on BB campaign logo

Supporters

Bike East Bay supports Measure BB.[5]

The website of the official Yes on BB campaign also listed the following endorsements of Measure BB:[6]

Organizations

  • Alameda County Taxpayers' Association
  • United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County (USOAC)
  • Alameda County Council of the Leagues of Women Voters
  • The Sierra Club
  • California Alliance for Jobs
  • National Women's Political Caucus of Alameda North
  • Port of Oakland
  • Alameda Labor Council
  • The Bay Area Council
  • Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
  • BART
  • Greenbelt Alliance
  • Bike East Bay
  • Genesis
  • ACCE
  • Urban Habitat
  • TransForm
  • The Emeryville Chamber of Commerce
  • Hayward Chamber of Commerce
  • Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Alameda County
  • Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group
  • Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • The Alameda County Democratic Party

Government

  • Alameda City Council
  • Albany City Council
  • Berkeley City Council
  • Dublin City Council
  • Emeryville City Council
  • Fremont City Council
  • Hayward City Council
  • Livermore City Council
  • Newark City Council
  • Oakland City Council
  • Piedmont City Council
  • Pleasanton City Council
  • San Leandro City Council
  • Union City City Council

Elected Officials

Over 80 elected officials support Measure BB as well. Below is a sampling of these supporters:[6]

  • Marie Gilmore, Alameda City Mayor
  • Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, Alameda City Vice-Mayor
  • Lena Tam, Alameda City Councilmember
  • Stewart Go Chen, Alameda City Councilmember
  • Tony Daysog, Alameda City Councilmember
  • Joanne Wile, Albany City Mayor
  • Peter Maass, Albany City Vice-Mayor
  • Marge Atkinson, Albany City Councilmember
  • Michael Barnes, Albany City Councilmember
  • Rochelle Nason, Albany City Councilmember
  • Tom Bates, Berkeley City Mayor
  • Linda Maio, Berkeley City Vice President of the Council
  • Darryl Moore, Berkeley City Councilmember
  • Max Anderson, Berkeley City Councilmember
  • Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley City Councilmember
  • Laurie Capitelli, Berkeley City Councilmember
  • Susan Wengraf, Berkeley City Councilmember
  • Kriss Worthington, Berkeley City Councilmember
  • Gordon Wozniak, Berkeley City Councilmember
  • Tim Sbranti, Dublin City Mayor
  • Don Biddle, Dublin City Vice-Mayor

A full list of Measure BB endorsements is available on the Yes on BB website.[6]

Arguments in favor

Supporters believe the tax is reasonable and necessary for the transportation needs of the city. Haggerty thinks that most voters will be happy to pay a half-cent more in sales taxes in order to see definite steps taken to eliminate traffic congestion, reduce pollution, fix roads and boost public transportation.[1]

Art Dao, the transportation commission's executive director, insisted that the commission's plan meets all the transportation needs of the county at a reasonable price. Dao said, "We spent 2 ½ years to negotiate and craft a very balanced plan." He also pointed out that the tax increase and resulting construction projects would vitalize the regions economy.[1]

Darlene K. Gee, Northern California district leader of HNTB[7], wrote an opinion commentary piece supporting Measure BB, which was featured by the Contra Costa Times. In her article, Gee wrote that Measure BB is essential for ensuring the health of the job market through convenient transportation, overall quality of life for Alameda County residents and environmentally friendly transportation options. She also noted that the improvements to the transportation network in the county funded by Measure BB will provide thousands of jobs and directly boost the county's economy.[8]

An excerpt from her commentary is below:[8]

Nearly 35 million Americans were estimated to have traveled at least 50 miles from home over Labor Day weekend, and for Alameda County residents, the trip home will get worse each year if we don't continue to invest in our transportation systems.

Alameda County voters are facing an important decision: Will we lose good job opportunities, worsen traffic conditions and increase the cost of transit services, or will we commit as a community to make critical repairs and improvements to our transportation system that will benefit Alameda County residents over the next 30 years and beyond?

Your vote can make the difference this time.

Measure BB, if approved, will provide nearly $8 billion over 30 years for essential transportation improvements in every city throughout Alameda County. According to the Bay Area Council, the measure would generate $20 billion in total economic activity in the Bay Area and 150,000 full-time equivalent jobs by extending and augmenting the existing half-cent transportation sales tax.

Overall, the sales tax dollars will increase reliability, improve safety; keep fares affordable for seniors, youth and people with disabilities; reduce traffic congestion; improve air quality; and create good jobs within Alameda County.

This would be welcome news, especially considering that Alameda County's population is projected to grow by more than 30 percent by 2040 and the senior population is expected to double.

Without new funding, the quality of life for residents will worsen -- whether traveling by car, bus, BART, bicycle or on foot. Measure BB will improve these conditions as well as support local street repairs and fixing potholes.

Our residents played a large part in developing this plan, but without support of voters at the polls, our transportation systems will fail to continue meeting the needs of our growing community. No more excuses. Let's support an environmentally sustainable future, transforming our transportation network over the next 30 years, while supporting jobs as our local economy continues to recover.[4]

—Darlene K. Gee, Northern California district leader of HNTB[8]

Opposition

Opponents

A No on BB campaign was started to urge voters to reject the measure.[9]

The Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG) is also focused on dissuading electors from approving Measure BB.[10]

Arguments against

Opponents of the measure see it as greedy, unnecessary and excessive. They believe that the county's transportation commission does not spend its funds conservatively enough, especially with regard to public transportation.[1]

Bob Feinbaum, an Oakland resident who was opposed to the 2012 Measure B1, said he would definitely oppose the proposed sales tax increase unless the county scraps the Livermore BART project, which he sees as inefficient.[1]

Feinbaum holds the opinion that public transit in the county should not be given taxpayer money unless its routes are successfully designed to avoid "buses running empty." Fenbaum said, "Just tossing more money at AC Transit isn't going to solve their problems."[1]

Editorials

  • The Oakland Tribune published an editorial urging voters to reject this measure and force the transportation commission to simply renew the existing sales tax rather than trying to double it from 0.5 percent to a full 1 percent. Below is an excerpt from the editorial:[11]

Alameda County voters in the Nov. 4 election will be asked if they want to approve Measure BB, which, according to the deceptive ballot wording, "augments by ½-cent and extends" the existing county transportation sales tax.

Augment? Extend? Actually, setting aside the euphemisms, the measure would double the tax to 1 percent -- making it the highest local transportation sales tax in California -- and impose it for the next 30 years.

Rather than seek a simple extension and start new projects in 2020, the commission sought to double the rate. It's important to keep in mind that, even if the rate remains unchanged, sales tax revenues will increase over time with inflation. Doubling the rate magnifies the revenue increase.

The money has to come from somewhere. Sales taxes, by nature, are regressive, disproportionately affecting those with lower incomes. And to the extent transportation sales taxes increase, voters are going to be less inclined to approve other needed local levies, especially as the total sales tax rate approaches and hits double-digits.

This is not just a transportation tax for roads. Half the money would go to transit agencies, with AC Transit the biggest winner. Funding transit is a good idea. But AC Transit already receives other voter-approved taxes. If the bus system needs more money, it should make its pitch directly to voters in the district rather than siphoning off from a countywide measure.

Like in 2012, we urge voters to reject this sales tax doubling. Transportation officials should seek an extension of the existing levy instead.[4]

Oakland Tribune editorial staff[11]

Polls

In September of 2013, a county-commissioned poll showed that about two-thirds of 815 randomly selected voters would approve Measure BB, which needs a two-thirds approval rate or greater for enactment. Thus, the survey indicates a very close race at the November election.[1]

Interestingly, the poll also showed that most voters do not remember the 2012 transportation sales tax question, Measure B1.[1]

Related measures

See also

External links

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