County voters asked to approve another 0.5% sales tax for transportation

Measure X requires two-thirds majority to pass

Contra Costa County voters are being asked to approve another half-cent sales tax hike this November in order to reduce traffic congestion, fix potholes and improve public transportation options.

Measure X, which requires two-thirds majority vote to pass, would raise $2.9 billion over 30 years to be administered by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, which proposed the measure.

The money would come from bonds that would be paid back by the sales tax revenue.

"I wouldn't have supported a sales tax four years ago, now I've got my name on it," said CCTA chairman David Hudson, who is also a member of the San Ramon City Council. "I'm a Republican. You don't get a lot of Republicans saying, 'I want a sales tax.'"

Measure X would go into effect in 2017 and supplement the county's existing half-cent sales tax, which expires in 2034. Voters approved that tax as Measure J in 2004, but just about all of the $2.5 billion is now either spent or earmarked for existing projects, Hudson said.

The biggest single chunk of the Measure X money, $684 million, would go to local street maintenance and improvements, according to the CCTA's spending plan.

The next largest, $300 million, is earmarked for making improvements to the BART system in the county, including the purchase of new train cars, parking improvements and station enhancements.

Hundreds of millions would also go toward traffic flow improvements on the county's highways, bus transit improvements, new bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and other projects, according to the plan.

"This money is really in response to what people told us," Hudson said. "We put together a citizen working group of businesses, bike advocates and environmentalists and we let them talk for a year or so."

The measure's supporter list is long and includes dozens of elected officials, the League of Women Voters, Bike East Bay and the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, according to the CCTA.

As of Thursday, proponents have raised more than $1.2 million in an effort to convince voters to approve Measure X, according to county Elections Division records.

Opponents, who have not mounted a coordinated campaign, say the measure will double the current tax burden while making the same unmet promises of traffic relief that were made during the Measure J campaign 12 years ago.

"Their planning is based on (the idea that) we'll keep growing the way we've been growing for the past four generations and we won't change anything," said David Schonbrunn, president of the San Rafael-based Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund. "It's a recipe for gridlock."

While Schonbrunn's group isn't raising money for an opposition campaign, he said the two-thirds approval burden faced by proponents works in his favor.

"We're hoping to trash this thing based on the 25% of the population that will vote against any tax," Schonbrunn said. "We want to provide just enough arguments to convince another 10 percent that, nah, this isn't for me."

Currently, the county's sales tax rate ranges from 8.5% in many communities, including Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Danville, to a high of 10% in El Cerrito, according to the State Board of Equalization.

-- Kiley Russell, Bay City News Service

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15 people like this
Posted by Long term resident
a resident of Danville
on Oct 25, 2016 at 7:11 am

I fully agree we need to do something about traffic congestion and poor infrastructure. However, we have been down this road too many times. I have lived here on and off since the late 1950's and voted for such measures in the past without any noticible signs of improvement. There was the "pothole" tax back in the 1980's which was supposed to be dedicated to road repairs, but never seemed to make a difference. We have also paid a sales tax supplement since the late 1960's to "as a temporary BART tax until they could be self-sustaining". We already pay a tax suppliment in our property tax for public transportation, including BARat. As many of you know, BART employees are some of the highest paid transit workers in the world and earlier this year, the BART board agreed to raises of 2.5,2.5, 2.0, and 2.0% over the next 4 years. We keep throwing money at BART yet it never seems to result in new cars, less noisy tracks, etc.

I then look at all the new home construction in Dublin and Livermore. I know they are in a different county, but they are certainly adding to the traffic congestion and deterioration of Contra Costa roads. Where is all the property tax revenue going from these new residents? Why aren't the builders of the new housing developments required to fund infrastructure improvements??

The bottom line is that we have continued to throw money at the problem for years in the form of new taxes and bonds, but the money is used for other purposes or squandered away. There is no accountability. I for one am not going to continue to vote for these measures. Let the powers that be figure out how to efficiently spend the money they are already receiving.

14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 25, 2016 at 9:31 am

This is how the bus lane off ramps for Norris Canyon got funded and put into the plan. Then we had to work hard to convince the city officials, especially Hudson, that this was an ill thought out solution to a problem that didn't exist. The other question is, why are we using bond money to fund the operating expenses for Bart? Bart spends all their revenue on employee benefits and then comes begging when it needs new equipment. Enough is enough... no more free money for mismanagement.

1 person likes this
Posted by Dave Hudson
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 25, 2016 at 9:54 am

We are not funding BART salaries or benefits and I was not on CCTA when Norris Canyon HOV was voted on by the people. Contra Costa County is a self help county and we have less than one half per cent of this measure for administration (not BART). Contrast that with the 5 per cent administrative cost you voted for in measure WW by East Bay Regional Park District. Look where the money is being spent and decide if the value is there. Because if you want these things later the funding won't be there......the traffic will be, the poor road conditions will be, and the BART delays will be. CCTA has done a great job of leveraging your funds in measure C and then again in measure J. You told us you want more and here is the expenditure plan. We spent three years listening to you through thousands of calls and e-mails. It's your decision. Fix it now or wait for the state.

8 people like this
Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Oct 25, 2016 at 10:56 am

Dave (Hudson) - Since you seem knowledgeable on this subject, perhaps you can tell us what the future tax revenues from the existing 1/2 cent Measure J sales tax will be used for? Because that existing tax will still be in effect for another 17 years (until 2034). And the revenues it creates will continue to grow, with inflation and also with increased population. The articles on Measure X discuss what those new funds would be used for, but never talk about what projects will be done using ongoing Measure J funds. Why is that?

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 25, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Dave... The point is that both Bart and Caltrans have money budgeted in their yearly operating budgets to fund maintenance and equipment repair or replacement. Bart elects to fund inflated retirement benefits instead, while CalTrans spent it's budget building a $6.7 billion Bay Bridge that is still questionable with regards to corrosion of anchor bolts and decking, as well as fraudulent testing reports for concrete pours in the main support tower. Mismanagement of public funds is not a strong argument for providing more funds.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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