South Bay Taxpayers May Be Asked to Pay for Transportation, Safety Improvements

The BART extension into San Jose is under construction, but needs more money to reach downtown.

Taxpayers in the South Bay are about to be asked to solve a lot of local problems -- with their wallets.

Santa Clara County's transportation agency and the City of San Jose are both preparing tax measures totaling billions of dollars for public safety and BART's extension into the South Bay, among other needs.

The BART extension into San Jose is under construction, but needs more money to reach downtown. That next phase is one of the top priorities in a potential 30-year, $6 billion sales tax measure being developed for the November ballot by the Valley Transportation Authority.

The VTA oversees virtually all local transportation project, including roadways and bikeways. But the VTA is concerned all the positive review it got for handling Super Bowl crowds might make voters think it does not need more resources.

"The more support we do get for a local sales tax can be leveraged for federal support down the road," VTA spokeswoman Brandi Childress said. "And that proved very successful for BART Phase 1, for example."

San Jose is also looking to ask taxpayers for support.

On Tuesday, city officials began forming recommendations for its share of the VTA money if or when the VTA measure passes. The city council was supposed to consider its own quarter-cent sales tax measure on Tuesday for a June ballot to address other needs such as public safety.

But the issue was put off to conduct more voter polls because Mayor Sam Liccardo is worried about tax fatigue.

"It's very important for me we are very honest with our voters about what exactly they're going to get," Liccardo said. "If they're going to pay more, they better get more."

The Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association said the agencies should be worried, especially when two-thirds voter approval is needed.

"I liken it to an analogy: You go to a restaurant and you get bad service and bad food. And you say next time I come here 'I want you to raise the price' so you'll get better food and better pricing," said Mark Hinkle, Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association president.

The VTA pulled back a similar tax measure two years ago because polls showed taxpayers were not receptive. Both the VTA and San Jose will begin polling again soon to see if the voters will be more receptive this time around.

Contact Us