We continue our overview of what’s at stake in the big transit ballot initiatives next week with a look at California. Previous installments in this series examined Indianapolis, Seattle, Detroit, Atlanta, and Raleigh. All three of Streetsblog’s west coast editors contributed to this article: Melanie Curry of Streetsblog CA, Roger Rudick of Streetsblog SF, and Joe Linton of Streetsblog LA.
Twenty of 58 California counties already have transportation sales taxes in place. These taxes fund transportation infrastructure at a rate nearly twice that of the state gas tax. According to State Assembly Transportation Committee chair Jim Frazier, counties raise $4 billion annually from transportation sales taxes, while the state gas tax contributes $2.3 billion in annual revenue for transportation.
California counties plan years ahead to put measures on the ballot during high-turnout presidential elections, as tax measures require a two-thirds super-majority to pass. There are 15 county transportation sales tax measures before California voters next week. Voters will also weigh in on transportation bond measures (Oakland and BART) and a property tax measure (Oakland-based AC Transit) for maintenance and operations.
Los Angeles County’s Measure M
L.A. County Metro, which already has three prior sales taxes under its belt, is trying for an ambitious fourth. Measure M would extend a sunsetting tax and augment it with an additional half-cent sales tax. If passed, Measure M would raise an estimated $860 million annually. Metro initially studied a 40- or 50-year tax, then decided on an indefinite no-sunset plan. In its first 40 years, Measure M is projected to bring in $120 billion.