Contra Costa County officials formally kicked off a campaign Friday supporting a half-cent countywide sales tax ballot measure, and remain confident that a state Senate bill still in limbo in Sacramento that would make the county measure viable will soon become law.
The Contra Costa County sales tax measure, Measure X, depends on the passage of SB 1349, drafted by Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda. The original bill has been amended to include language providing relief to the county and several cities — including Danville, Lafayette, Pittsburg and San Ramon — for future similar tax measures. Without passage of SB 1349, the countywide measure cannot move forward.
“SB 1349 is important because it clarifies existing law about whether taxes imposed by other local agencies like BART and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority count against the 2 percent local cap for transactions and use taxes,” said Concord Mayor Tim McGallian, who has worked to support Glazer’s bill. In other words, SB 1349 would allow California municipal governments to float sales tax measures for “transactions and use tax for general or specific purposes” even if they would put those local governments above that 2 percent cap.
That bill, County Supervisor John Gioia said Thursday, will let Contra Costa County and its 19 cities continue to seek additional tax income in the face of municipal budgets that have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the bill had not yet been signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newson as of Thursday, it will become law at the end of September regardless unless Newsom specifically vetoes it — something Gioia said is highly unlikely.
The county’s Measure X half-cent sales tax measure, if approved by voters in November, would raise an estimated $81 million annually for 20 years to fund county hospital operations and community health centers, fire and other emergency responses and various social safety-net services.
Gioia said other Bay Area counties already have sales taxes that provide this kind of revenue, and that Contra Costa needs it now, especially in light of the pandemic. But Gioia said county leaders have to make a case to the voters that the money is desperately needed to preserve the aforementioned services.
“We’ve been responsible with our budgets,” Gioia said.
Concord voters will say yes or no on Nov. 3 to Measure V, extending an existing local half-cent sales tax and increasing it to 1 cent. City officials anticipate that the measure would raise about $27 million a year for a variety of uses, including emergency and disaster preparedness, community policing, and homeless-related services. This measure doesn’t have a sunset, and would have to be ended by a vote of Concord residents.
McGallian said this week that his city’s tax measure would not be affected by the fate of SB 1349. “But we know how important this is to the region, so we wanted to work collaboratively,” he said.
In Orinda, voters will be asked to approve Measure R, a proposed increase of an existing half-cent sales tax to 1 cent, which would generate about $2.4 million a year for emergency preparedness and maintenance of infrastructure, including streets and storm drains. The tax would run for another 20 years if approved. As with Concord’s ballot measure, Orinda’s is not dependent on the enactment of SB 1349.