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By Tim Hunt

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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Reaching too far, again

Uploaded: Dec 10, 2013
As expected, the Alameda County Transportation Commission is bringing back a measure to double the county's half cent sales tax to a penny.

The measure narrowly failed in 2012, winning in every city but Pleasanton. One key objection to the measure was there was no sunset. The two prior tax measures had sunsets—the first at 15 years and the second at 20 years.

This time around, commissioners are selling a 30-year package that is designed to raise $7.8 billion for road, freeway and transit improvements and operations. The commission formally approved the measure this month and then sent it to city councils for their concurrence.

Just like doubling the tax, the 30-year period again is a stretch—that's used to be an entire working career for people.

There's no question that the county has benefitted from projects completed with the tax revenues, but it is a regressive tax that has no direct connection to transportation. The type of user fee—increasing vehicle registration fees that Sacramento politicians are floating—would be a better approach.

It would tap the electric vehicles that Democrat politicians and environmentalists are pushing that pay nothing in fuel taxes.

Did you notice where the highest concentration of electric Tesla cars is located—Atherton, one of the Bay Area's priciest communities. Reports put registration at 15 percent of vehicles in the Atherton zip code. Three other Silicon Valley affluent communities (Los Altos Hills, Los Altos and Portola Valley) have the next highest market share, according to a report by Edmunds.com. The Tesla is the top selling luxury car in eight of the country's 25 wealthiest zip codes. I certainly see a number of them driving around Pleasanton.

The base price for a Tesla S sedan starts at $70,000 and can easily exceed $100,000 for a top model with a range of about 260 miles. Other models have a range without recharging the batteries of about 140 miles.

That's before the $7,500 federal tax credit (credit, not deduction, which means directly lowering the tax bill). Toss in a $2,500 rebate from the state, access to the High-occupancy-vehicle lanes and it's easy to see why Teslas have been selling very well in affluent communities. And, of course, because they run on batteries, owners do not pay any gasoline or sales taxes.

So they are using the roads for free with other motorists paying the freight.

It is a classic case of smart people (Telsa CEO Elon Musk as well as the buyers) taking full advantage of federal and state laws that presumably were not written to subsidize wealthy buyers.

Comments

Posted by Joe, a resident of Ruby Hill,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 9:19 pm

What exactly is the point you are trying to make? "Just like doubling the tax, the 30-year period again is a stretch—that's used to be an entire working career for people" -Can you explain why a 30-year period is a stretch? (and the grammer please..."that's used to be"...what?)

Atherton and the 15% statistic- how many cars is that? And it's a pretty small percentage of the Bay Area total. What about Prius, Nissan Leaf, and Ford C-max ownership and the driveways where those cars are parked? What is your point?

I think what you are trying to get at is the sales tax proposal is a way of the Democratic agenda allowing electric car owners to avoid taxes because of gov't rebates that are artifically impacting the market? Honestly, not sure, but it should be noted that they are still paying a hefty chunk of sales tax on their initial purchase.

Lastly, my recollection is that Gov Arnie signed a reduction of registration fees his first day in office without a plan to replace the revenues raised by that tax. Now it's being proposed again as a solution-that's rich. Gotta think that this is one of the "more proportionate" taxes around -you can afford a BMW, you pay more than the person who buys a Kia.

And as for raising money for transportation -may be both are a good idea. Been on parking lot they call the Sunol Grade between 7:15 and 9:00 or better yet at the end of the day?

Poorly written.


Posted by Arnold, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 9:21 pm

"As expected, the Alameda County Transportation Commission is bringing back a measure to double the county's half cent sales tax to a penny...This time around, commissioners are selling a 30-year package that is designed to raise $7.8 billion for road, freeway and transit improvements and operations. The commission formally approved the measure this month and then sent it to city councils for their concurrence."

Oh, according to the Alameda County Transportation Authority the tax is only a penny. Can I send my thirty cents now to pre-pay my obligation for the next thirty yeas? Tim, do you know how many taxes are currently being assessed in the name of improving roads? How many of those dollars are diverted to other causes?


Posted by George, a resident of Dublin,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:32 am

It is interesting that the some of the same people that for pushed and got a SWEETHEART BART CONTRACT are now asking for more transportation taxes, some of which will help pay for it one way or another. Some equipment money that BART had to replace aging cars will now be used to pay for the SWEETHEART DEAL and some of the new tax will replace those funds. Watch the pea under the shell, where does the money come from and where does it go??


Posted by Bill, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Alameda County Transportion Commission is the last people I would want making decisions on where tax money is to be spent. These people use bait and switch techniques to fool the people into thinking their tax dollars are going to improvements in roads, when all along it is a give away to public transportation and the unions that have the politicians in their coat pockets. CalTrans said it was a huge mistake to put in the i680 Express Lane before a i680 northbound carpool lane was built over the Sunol grade. Unfortunately CalTrans let the Alameda County Transportation Commission make the decision to build the Express Lane first. The northbound carpool lane was slated to be finished in 2005. Just think we could have had both a southbound and northbound carpool lanes in place 8 years ago. Instead we have the i680/84 junction completely screwed up, an Express Lane that CalTrans has said is designed totally wrong, and a northbound commute that is from hell. Now Alameda County Transportation wants more money to "fix" what they already screwed up.


Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

I wonder where Caltrans will put the HOV ramps on the Alameda County portion of the I-680. I expect some squealing from Pleasanton!


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