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Santa Clara County Sales Tax Increase, Measure A (November 2012)

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A Santa Clara County Sales Tax Increase, Measure A ballot question was on the November 6, 2012, ballot for voters in Santa Clara County, where it was approved.[1]

Measure A increases the sales tax paid on the purchase of goods and services within the county by one-eighth of a cent for 10 years. This is projected to result in new revenues to the county of $458 million over the 10-year life of the increase.[1]

If Measure A is approved, the overall sales tax in Santa Clara County will be 8.5%; this will be the third highest sales tax rate of any county in California. Since Proposition 30, a statewide sales tax increase, also passed, the sales tax rate in Santa Clara County will be 8.75%.[2]

A simple majority vote was required for approval.

Election results

Measure A
Approveda Yes 339,359 56.61%
Final official results from the Santa Clara County elections office.


  • George Shirakawa, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said, "With a questionable outlook for state and federal government funding, and after 10 consecutive years of substantial budget reductions to services and programs, we need to look at other revenue sources for the benefit of the community."[3]
  • Santa Clara County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith said, "We have taken action and made the hard decisions needed to reduce costs. We wouldn’t be asking residents to consider a one-eighth cent sales tax if we had other choices."[3]


The Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association opposed the measure.

San Jose Inside editorialized against Measure A, writing, "What county officials haven’t admitted is that there is no obvious need for this regressive tax. The Board of Supervisors manage a $4 billion budget and sometimes have to conjure ways just to spend it all. Just this past spring, Supervisor Liz Kniss gave $47K to a non-county-operated animal shelter. Then there was the board’s decision to start building parks to connect neighborhoods in unincorporated areas. Does this sound like a county in crisis?"[4]

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:

Measure A: "Shall the County of Santa Clara enact a one-eighth cent sales tax, that cannot be taken by the state, for local priorities such as:
  • Law enforcement and public safety;
  • Trauma and emergency room services;
  • Health coverage for low-income children;
  • Economic development and job creation;
  • Housing for the homeless; and
  • Programs to help students stay in school;

for a limited period of ten years, with annual public reports to ensure fiscal accountability?[5]

Lawsuit to remove

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

The Silicon Valley Taxpayers' Association sought to have Measure A removed from the November 6, 2012, ballot. They wrote a 7-page letter to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in early August arguing that California state law (specifically, Proposition 218 from 1996) requires that when a local unit of government wants to place a "general tax measure" on the ballot, they must do so at an election that coincides with a scheduled election of local candidates relevant to the unit of government that seeks the tax. In this case, that would mean an election pertaining to county supervisors. However, there is no such election on the November 6, 2012, ballot and therefore, according to the SVTA, the sales tax measure should have been removed from the ballot until such time as there is an election of county supervisors.[2]

Lori Pegg, the acting County Counsel for Santa Clara County, responded to the 7-page letter, saying that in her opinion, the county "fully considered the points raised in your correspondence prior to placing Measure A on the ballot and we are confident that, if challenged, a court would conclude the county is in full compliance with Proposition 218."[2]

The SVTA then filed a lawsuit to remove Measure A from the ballot. Superior Court Judge Kevin McKenney ruled in favor of the county, writing that the contested language "on its face refers only to the type of election for which a tax measure may appear on a ballot. No reference is made ... to a requirement that a candidate for the governing body of the local government actually be on the ballot in order to effectuate compliance."[6]

Proposition 218 added Article XIII C to the California Constitution. Section 2 of Article XIII C says in part:

No local government may impose, extend, or increase any general tax unless and until that tax is submitted to the electorate and approved by a majority vote. ... The election required by this subdivision shall be consolidated with a regularly scheduled general election for members of the governing body of the local government, except in cases of emergency declared by a unanimous vote of the governing body.

See also

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