Saturday, November 19, 2005

County pushing out the VTA with one of its own?

While the SVLG's sales tax poll is private information, a different sales tax poll paid by Santa Clara County is now public information.

A part of the County's survey deals with the public's attitude on major issues. On page 4 of the poll presentation, Education is now a top concerns among the voters. Transportation, used to be the rated as the most important problem back in the late 1990's, has now ranked 3rd behind education and the economy.

The poll asked voters whether to support a general county sales tax either at 1/4 cent or 1/2 cent, which the voter threshold is 50%, over 60% of the respondents said that they support the tax.

Given that the County and the VTA each want its own sales tax increase, the question is who will win and who will lose. Basically, if the County and VTA each have a tax on the ballot in November, most likely both of them will lose. Although these two taxes could be staggered with one in the primary election and the other in the general election the same year, the latter one, which ever that is, would likely to have a higher chance of defeat if the other one passes in the primary.

No wonder why, according to this article, Jim Beall suggested to postpone the VTA tax until 2008.

Since the county proposal is calling for a general tax, it is possible for the county on its own to create a trust fund to support VTA. There's already a precedent with the 1996 Measure A/B tax, which the County Board of Supervisors and the VTA Board hold joint meetings at least once a year to approve transportation projects. On the other hand, the VTA cannot levy a tax that would provide some funds for health care and social services programs.

If the county chooses to support transit (at whatever direction they wanted to) with its general tax, then there is no need for VTA to have its own tax. The City of San Jose (which holds 5 seats on VTA) would not have as much power as they wanted. Perhaps the county could change the course away from the disastrous path since the approval of the 2000 Measure A.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Answer to the people mover question: More money for San Jose

In an attempt to squeeze more funding to support the real people mover between the Santa Clara freight yard, where BART is supposed to end, and the San Jose Airport, San Jose official is now suggesting that part of the non-transit portion of the proposed 1/4 cent sales tax could be suspended to support the people mover.

In a way it is a defiance against SVLG, in which it first suggested to provide funding for non-transit expediture as a way to woo voters. If it is true that there's enough funding for pothole repairs, then why include it in the tax if not to mislead voters?

On the other hand, non-San Jose politicians were opposed to this idea. Not as much as whether the funding is needed, but where the money goes. County Supervisor Don Gage said it correctly in the article, "San Jose wants the big chunk.This is all San Jose." Generally, maintenance funding is spread around the county based on population or need; however, the people mover project mostly involve San Jose, therefore there would be a transfer of wealth if this project were funded instead.

Also, it leads to a more frightening prospect that more transfer of wealth could happen if other non-BART/non-San Jose projects have to be scarificed due to BART and/or people mover cost-overruns.

Finally, the City of San Jose could step further up to the plate by using city or airport funds, instead of taking a larger portion of the county sales tax. Or, the City could suggest eliminating the extra extortion fees for BART based on deceptive ridership projection. Or, in the extreme, a 1/4 city-wide sales tax for whatever project San Jose wants.