VTA did not hide its intention of having a 1/8-cent sales tax increment all along. Finally VTA now has a sponsor in Sacramento to help make its wish a reality. State Senator Elaine Alquist just introduced a new bill (SB 264) that would authorize VTA to place sales taxes on the ballot in 1/8 cent increments. Currently, VTA is allowed to place sales taxes in quarter cent increments.
The bill would only give the authority to VTA only and not to other governmental agencies, and the bill would also keep the 2/3 voter requirement for special taxes, something that VTA prefers to be reduced as well.
VTA's contention is that it needs more flexibility to determine the tax rate for additional revenues, without suggesting a preferred tax rate or a timetable. This legislation would give VTA two new tax options (1/8 cent and 3/8 cent) in addition to two others that already exist (quarter cent and half cent).
As it stands, VTA can barely justify a quarter-cent sales tax increase to support the BART extension and other 2000 Measure A projects. A half-cent tax, which would provide sufficient funding for all projects, is something that voters would likely reject, as shown by the defeat of the 2006 Measure A.
If this legislation passes, VTA could place a 1/8 cent tax increase on the ballot. In order to do so, VTA will have to eliminate projects and/or low-ball their figures. A 1/8 cent tax, even if it is fully dedicated to BART, will not provide enough funds to build and operate BART. Existing transit services, along with other non-BART projects, would be negatively impacted by a 1/8 cent increase.
VTA could place a 3/8 cent tax, but this odd-ball figure would probably confuse voters and likely be rejected.
Another possibility is to have two 1/8 cent tax increases to appear on separate ballots. VTA may place a 1/8 cent BART-only tax on one ballot, and then a 1/8 cent tax for other projects on another ballot. However, voters could approve one but not the other.
Obviously VTA would not seek a change in the law if VTA doesn't plan to take advantage of it soon. With one strike against them in 2006 and time running out, the delusionals at VTA would likely go for a 1/8 cent tax increase just for BART in 2008 and screw everything else.
San Mateo County already has a state authorization to place taxes in 1/8 cent increments. However, a 1/8 cent sales tax increase for parks failed to meet the 2/3 voter theshold last November.