Mountain View to Vote on ‘Head Tax’ Measure on Election Day

The city has projected that 80 percent will be directed toward transportation, 10 percent toward affordable housing and 10 percent for other community projects

Mountain View will end months of debate and discussion over a business license "head" tax when voters go to the polls on Election Day.

The highly-contested Measure P would reap most of its revenue from Mountain View's largest employer, Google, and direct funds toward transportation, infrastructure improvements and schools.

A company with a single proprietor would pay $75 for the license, and the tax would follow a sliding scale based on the size of the company. A company with more than 5,000 employees would pay up to $584,195 and $150 per head, or additional employee.

Revenue from the tax would be directed to the general fund. The city has projected that 80 percent will be directed toward transportation, 10 percent toward affordable housing and 10 percent for other community projects.

An opposition statement on the ballot says the flexibility allows unrestricted spending by the city, but Mayor Lenny Siegel said the values haven't been set in stone because the city doesn't have an immediate cost estimate for its projects.

Siegel said the city needs a promise of a tax before it can begin elaborating on its primary goal -- a large overhaul of transportation and related infrastructure.

This could include an elevated automated railway and a free, electric community shuttle for school children, similar to a program currently subsidized by Google.

Siegel said large companies would be the primary benefactors of such improvements, since thousands of employees struggle to commute into Mountain View daily. He added the tax would be "noise," or a small percentage of profits, for big companies.

Measure P hasn't seen an official opposition in advance of Election Day, but the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group spoke against the cost of the tax at a City Council meeting in June.

The current business license system charges a flat rate of $30 to each company regardless of its size, barring large companies like Google, according to Siegel.

The head tax system already exists in San Jose, Redwood City, and Sunnyvale, while a similar measure in Cupertino was postponed for more planning in June.

"We have a lot of successful and growing business in Mountain View that are stressing our transportation system, and we want them to pay their share of improving it," Siegel said.

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