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Contra Costa moves forward with half-cent sales tax measure for social services

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will proceed with pursuing a half-cent, 20-year sales tax measure for November's general election ballot, though it could be derailed if a bill now languishing in Sacramento isn't passed by the end of July.

The tax would raise an estimated $81 million a year to pay for county services including health and emergency services, safety net services and housing and early childhood services.

The supervisors will be presented with proposed ballot measure language at their July 28 meeting, and will have to approve a measure at that same meeting to allow enough time to get the measure on the November ballot.

County Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville was the sole "no" vote Tuesday for moving ahead, saying she has "serious concerns" about adding further tax burdens to families already stressed by the economic effects of the COVID-19 restrictions.

"A sales tax is the most regressive form of taxation for those who can least afford it," Andersen said Tuesday. "I think the timing of it is really, really off."

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But other supervisors, including John Gioia of West County, said the need for these services is also greater, driven by the same re-tightened restrictions and by the county's own budget problems. He said a similar tax in Los Angeles County costs most families between $25 and $65 annually.

"I don't think that is an undue burden," said Gioia, who noted Contra Costa is the only Bay Area county that doesn't have a sales tax that supports county services.

The Contra Costa sales tax measure will depend on passage of state Senate Bill 1349, drafted by Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, that would authorize the county to impose a transactions and use tax of up to a half-cent "for general or specific purposes to support countywide programs."

That bill would allow such a tax to pass with only a majority vote, rather than a two-thirds vote.

That bill, and all others, are on hold as the state Senate and Assembly have postponed resumption of work after summer recess next week because COVID-19 has directly affected several staffers and at least one legislator.

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David Schonbrunn, president of San Rafael-based TRANSDEF, a tax-oversight nonprofit, said he believes this measure is more a special tax than a general one; a special tax would require a two-thirds vote.

"If SB 1349 fails, you will have wasted taxpayer dollars," Schonbrunn told the supervisors.

The motion approved Tuesday would put the sales tax on the November ballot contingent on approval on SB 1349. But the supervisors have to have their ballot information to elections officials by Aug. 7 for the measure to appear on November's ballot.

The Contra Costa supervisors last month approved spending $10,000 for a poll by the firm FM3 to help determine voter support for this sales tax measure.

Supervisors on Tuesday heard the results of that polling, of 666 Contra Costa County voters likely to cast ballots in November conducted June 22-29 online and via telephone. Approximately two-thirds of respondents said they would support a 20-year tax, with 59 percent supporting a 35-year tax.

Among the most strongly supported uses for the tax money, according to the FM3 polling, are to support mental health care, after-school programs, the Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center and for increasing transparency and accountability of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

"People are more understanding of our need to provide more health care," Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg said.

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Contra Costa moves forward with half-cent sales tax measure for social services

by / Bay Cities News Service

Uploaded: Wed, Jul 15, 2020, 12:39 pm

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors will proceed with pursuing a half-cent, 20-year sales tax measure for November's general election ballot, though it could be derailed if a bill now languishing in Sacramento isn't passed by the end of July.

The tax would raise an estimated $81 million a year to pay for county services including health and emergency services, safety net services and housing and early childhood services.

The supervisors will be presented with proposed ballot measure language at their July 28 meeting, and will have to approve a measure at that same meeting to allow enough time to get the measure on the November ballot.

County Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville was the sole "no" vote Tuesday for moving ahead, saying she has "serious concerns" about adding further tax burdens to families already stressed by the economic effects of the COVID-19 restrictions.

"A sales tax is the most regressive form of taxation for those who can least afford it," Andersen said Tuesday. "I think the timing of it is really, really off."

But other supervisors, including John Gioia of West County, said the need for these services is also greater, driven by the same re-tightened restrictions and by the county's own budget problems. He said a similar tax in Los Angeles County costs most families between $25 and $65 annually.

"I don't think that is an undue burden," said Gioia, who noted Contra Costa is the only Bay Area county that doesn't have a sales tax that supports county services.

The Contra Costa sales tax measure will depend on passage of state Senate Bill 1349, drafted by Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, that would authorize the county to impose a transactions and use tax of up to a half-cent "for general or specific purposes to support countywide programs."

That bill would allow such a tax to pass with only a majority vote, rather than a two-thirds vote.

That bill, and all others, are on hold as the state Senate and Assembly have postponed resumption of work after summer recess next week because COVID-19 has directly affected several staffers and at least one legislator.

David Schonbrunn, president of San Rafael-based TRANSDEF, a tax-oversight nonprofit, said he believes this measure is more a special tax than a general one; a special tax would require a two-thirds vote.

"If SB 1349 fails, you will have wasted taxpayer dollars," Schonbrunn told the supervisors.

The motion approved Tuesday would put the sales tax on the November ballot contingent on approval on SB 1349. But the supervisors have to have their ballot information to elections officials by Aug. 7 for the measure to appear on November's ballot.

The Contra Costa supervisors last month approved spending $10,000 for a poll by the firm FM3 to help determine voter support for this sales tax measure.

Supervisors on Tuesday heard the results of that polling, of 666 Contra Costa County voters likely to cast ballots in November conducted June 22-29 online and via telephone. Approximately two-thirds of respondents said they would support a 20-year tax, with 59 percent supporting a 35-year tax.

Among the most strongly supported uses for the tax money, according to the FM3 polling, are to support mental health care, after-school programs, the Contra Costa County Regional Medical Center and for increasing transparency and accountability of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

"People are more understanding of our need to provide more health care," Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg said.

Comments

Gale Ranch Watchdog
San Ramon
on Jul 15, 2020 at 8:46 pm
Gale Ranch Watchdog, San Ramon
on Jul 15, 2020 at 8:46 pm
30 people like this

Senator Glazer is raising our taxes! He lied to everyone when he declared that "hold the line on taxes" is one of his Governing Principles. (I still have one of his stupid baseball cards that his staff gave out at a town meeting a couple of years ago - "hold the line on taxes" was his promise.) Everyone should know that SB 1349 and the County's tax increase is all about bailing out the County for giving out excessive public pensions. The Supervisors and Glazer claim that COVID-19 is what makes their tax increase necessary. Oh really? If so, then SB 1349 and the proposed tax increase should be temporary, just four or five years. Instead the County tax would be 20 years and Glazer's SB 1349 gives the authority to raise taxes forever (no time limit). Glazer isn't just another tax-and-spend professional politician. Glazer is even worse because he violated his own Governing Principle to push one of the biggest tax increases in Contra Costa County history. Glazer used to work for the notorious Gray Davis - Web Link Like his mentor Gray Davis, Glazer needs to be recalled from office. Who's with me?


Dan
Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 8:39 am
Dan, Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 8:39 am
2 people like this

Well said!


Lynn
Blackhawk
on Jul 16, 2020 at 8:55 am
Lynn, Blackhawk
on Jul 16, 2020 at 8:55 am
14 people like this

I’ve lived in CA my entire life and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen our taxes raised because our leadership miss manages the previous tax dollars and now under Gavin Newsom we are again in debt (no thanks to the BILLIONS spent on a bullet train that fell through the cracks and our roads and infrastructure falling apart. NOW, they want yet ANOTHER tax! We are going down the road to Socialist and government tyranny.


Michael Arata
Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 1:06 pm
Michael Arata, Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 1:06 pm
7 people like this

Having discovered that Danville's town manager had unilaterally endorsed SB 1349 back on April 21 (at request of Concord's own town manager, with his endorsement transmitted to a political operative who works in State Senator Glazer's office), I presented the following comments regarding SB1349 during the "For the Good of the Town" segment of Danville's Town Council meeting of July 7 (conducted via Zoom):

Town Manager Joe Calabrigo’s April 21 letter of endorsement for California Senate Bill 1349, signed “on behalf of the Town of Danville,” ignored Danville’s established Legislative Framework. (Web Link). Trying to defend his unilateral action, Mr. Calabrigo claims authority from a Framework segment assigning “day to day oversight of legislative matters” to his office.

But that authority is explicitly conditioned, assigning pre-endorsement review of new bills to the “Legislative Committee,” a two-member subset of Town Council. The unambiguous obligations of that committee include the following:

1. “The committee will meet as frequently as monthly to review and discuss the Town’s legislative platform and pending/possible legislation.” But only one such meeting has occurred this year, and it began 7 hours after my e-mailed June 23rd message enumerating various failures to honor the Framework’s policy stipulations.

2. “The committee will develop positions on pending or possible legislation and make recommendations for consideration by the Town Council.” If ever there was a legislative maneuver needing such consideration, it is SB1349. But no related positions were developed, nor any recommendations forwarded for discussion and action by the Council.

Among the bill’s numerous problems is its arbitrary decree that our existing minimum County-wide 1% local sales tax add-on is not to count against the statutory 2% cap on such additions.

The bill would also facilitate yet another run at the already twice-failed County transportation sales-tax increase. 56% of Danville voters rejected the most recently failed version on March 3rd. Perhaps they read ballot arguments noting at least 9 state and local transportation tax measures already passed since 1998, including the “bullet-train” boondoggle.

In any case, Mr. Calabrigo’s unilateral endorsement of legislation enabling yet another county transportation sales-tax increase campaign rejects the registered views of a majority of March 3 Danville voters.

Meanwhile, SB 1349 also facilitates a general half-percent sales-tax increase, requiring only bare majority approval county-wide.

3. Still quoting: “Once a determination has been made that a legislative proposal may impact the Town, a letter outlining the Town’s position will be drafted for the Mayor’s or Town Manager’s signature.” Again, despite the consequential elements of SB 1349, no determination or letter was forthcoming from the Legislative Committee or Town Council — and Mr. Calabigo acted without seeking one.

4. “The committee will make regular reports to the Town Council at duly noticed public meetings.” With no meetings of the Legislative Committee this year until June 23, there were no “regular reports” of proceedings, and no notice to the public that SB1349 was being considered for endorsement.

Any proposal of formal endorsement for a bill which plays word games with existing statutes and facilitates new spending-lobby campaigns for still higher local sales taxes — atop rates which are already among the country’s highest — should obviously require properly noticed Legislative Committee and Town Council discussion prior to endorsement. Mr. Calabrigo ignored that requirement.

In allowing Mr. Calabrigo’s unilateral endorsement of SB 1349 to remain on the record without Council consideration and action, you persist also in ignoring your own Legislative Framework — along with the express will of the citizens you purport to serve.


Michael Arata
Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 1:22 pm
Michael Arata, Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 1:22 pm
6 people like this

I followed up at Danville's July 14 Town Council meeting with the following additional comments, since the Town still has time to do the right thing — i.e., to correct the bypass of its own Legislative Framework (Web Link):

As I said in an explanatory June 23 e-mail and again in detailed public comments on July 7, Town Council should rescind Town Manager Calabrigo’s unilateral endorsement of State Senate Bill 1349.

That double-speak, gut-and-amend legislation passed the Senate on June 11, and is now under consideration by the Assembly’s Committee on Local Government.

Since resumption of the Assembly’s current session has been delayed until at least July 27, there remains sufficient time for Town Council now, finally, to act responsibly in the SB 1349 matter — i.e., to refer Mr. Calabrigo’s endorsement, and the legislation directly itself, to the Town’s two-member Legislative Committee, and thence to Town Council’s committee of the whole.

As you know, Section 7251.1 of California’s Revenue and Taxation Code, says — in reference to local sales-tax add-ons to the State’s own 7.25% sales-tax rate — that “The combined rate of all taxes imposed in accordance with this part in any county may not exceed 2 percent. No tax shall be considered to be in accordance with this part if, upon its adoption, the combined rate in the county will exceed 2 percent.”

SB 1349 arbitrarily decrees that statutory limit to be meaningless — saying that our existing minimum County-wide 1% local sales tax add-on is not to count against the statutory 2% local cap.

Thereby, SB 1349 enables campaigns for new taxes exceeding the cap — including a new half-percent tax being readied by County supervisors at this moment, as these comments are read to you.

[Explanation: Contra Costa County sales taxes vary by local jurisdiction, presently collecting 8.25% to 9.75% already. So some parts of the County have a sales-tax rate 2.5% higher than the statutory 2% add-on cap. SB 1349 enables more such circumvention of the statutory limit. As noted by other posters on this forum, SB1349 was introduced by State Senator Glazer, who had promised falsely to "hold the line on taxes." That legislation passed the Senate on June 11, and will be taken up by the Assembly's Committee on Local Government on or about July 27.]

Again: SB1349 is momentous legislation which Mr. Calabrigo should not have presumed to endorse “on behalf of the Town of Danville.”

So I recommend and request once more that the matter of endorsing SB 1349 be placed on Town Council’s agenda, now for your July 21 meeting, for public comment, discussion, and a recorded vote.

That vote will show which of you, at a time of pandemic-driven financial distress for many, are nevertheless willing to enable campaigns for sales taxes which are higher still than the already exorbitant rates in place now.


Michael Arata
Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 2:13 pm
Michael Arata, Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 2:13 pm
7 people like this

Meanwhile, the County’s Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to move ahead with the predicted half-percent sales-tax add-on. Supervisor Candace Andersen (San Ramon, Danville, Alamo, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Canyon, Rossmoor, Parkmead, Saranap, and part of Walnut Creek) deserves credit as the only “NO” vote..

A likelihood not advertised: if passed, the tax will “free up” some of the County’s current and/or anticipated general-fund dollars that are spent on social programs in order to fund the next round of already stratospheric compensation rates for County-agency employees.

Each of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s two recent sales-tax-increase campaigns (Measure X, 2016 and Measure J, March 2020) was bankrolled by about $1.3 Million in “contributions” made primarily by existing and prospective vendors and contractors to the County — with an odor thereby of shakedowns and anticipated kickbacks.

But fortunately, a sufficient number of voters saw through the campaign blandishments and voted “NO,” so both measures failed. Similarly large “contributions” will fund the Supervisors’ new tax-scheme campaign.

Those interested in reviewing existing, already overly generous County-agency compensation programs can do so at Transparent California (Web Link). Look in particular at the “Counties” (> Contra Costa) and Special Districts data pages.

Note, for example, that at 50 entries per spreadsheet page, you’ll have to go down to Contra Costa County employee #385 before total annual compensation drops below $300,000, and #1771 before that figure drops below $200,000.

Supervisor compensation rates are among those presented. The four who voted “YES” on new taxes show the following for total compensation in 2019:

Diane Burgis $206,394
John Gioia $205,841
Federal Glover $200,503
Karen Mitchoff $192,317

The point is that California state and local government employees are already richly compensated. Because more reasonable salary and benefit structures are NOT in place, various tax-consuming entities continue in their never-ending game of tax leapfrog, seeking ever higher RATES for income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, car and gasoline taxes, phone taxes, utility taxes….


Michael Arata
Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 5:34 pm
Michael Arata, Danville
on Jul 16, 2020 at 5:34 pm
3 people like this

Danville Town Council members Renee Morgan and Newell Arnerich were resentfully dismissive of my request to rescind the Danville town manager’s unilateral endorsement of SB1349 — thence to undertake a review of the legislation by Town Council (Web Link), per the Town’s established Legislative Framework (Web Link). Members Lisa Blackwell and Robert Storer were silent on the matter.

Mayor Karen Stepper said “OK, I don’t see a consensus to put it on the July 27 agenda.” [She meant the July 21 agenda; July 27 is the re-start date for the Assembly.] “We have discussed it before, and with the Tri-Valley,” she continued (referring to the Tri-Valley Cities coalition of Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and San Ramon).

So I wrote to the Town’s Clerk, requesting documentation or links to same for that alleged discussion regarding SB1349. The clerk wrote back to say she was unaware of any such discussion.


Jimbo
San Ramon
on Jul 17, 2020 at 6:26 am
Jimbo, San Ramon
on Jul 17, 2020 at 6:26 am
4 people like this

Given the opportunity the democrats in Sacramento would spend every dime the taxpayer has.


RWCook
Danville
on Jul 17, 2020 at 7:04 am
RWCook, Danville
on Jul 17, 2020 at 7:04 am
7 people like this

Seeking more revenue? Open the county back up!
As of 7/12 63% of the county’s Covid cases have been people under 50 years old, resulting in one death. Should we shut down a million people’s livelihoods for that?
On the other hand 80% of the deaths have been people over 70. We need to protect them and let everyone else go back to work.


Long Term Resident
Danville
on Jul 17, 2020 at 8:40 am
Long Term Resident, Danville
on Jul 17, 2020 at 8:40 am
4 people like this

Even if you support a tax increase, don’t be fooled by the term. We voted in a 0.25% “temporary” sales tax supplement in the late 1960s for BART. We were told the tax was needed until they were up and running, and generating a profit. Here we are 50 years later and the tax is still there.

Why didn’t county staff take pay cuts or pay reduce staffing during Covid? That’s what private companies had to do. No more tax increases!!


Michael Arata
Danville
on Jul 17, 2020 at 12:39 pm
Michael Arata, Danville
on Jul 17, 2020 at 12:39 pm
4 people like this

Not only that, but the BART sales-tax add-on is presently 0.50%.

And Senator Glazer's SB1349 (passed in the State Senate on June 11, to be taken up in the Assembly when its current session re-starts on July 27) would exclude the BART tax(along with some other area sales taxes) from the statutory 2% cap on local sales-tax add-ons.

That's to prepare the way for more sales-tax abuse and deceptive new tax campaigns by rapacious tax-consuming agencies and their overcompensated employees -- including the County and at least four of its supervisors.


Jennifer
Danville
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:17 pm
Jennifer, Danville
on Jul 25, 2020 at 5:17 pm
Like this comment

No more taxes!


SRVdad
San Ramon
on Jul 26, 2020 at 8:19 pm
SRVdad, San Ramon
on Jul 26, 2020 at 8:19 pm
Like this comment

Very simple: No.


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