Local Taxes

Sales Tax Increase Proposed in Sacramento County

Voting at Poll Station

“A group of labor, business, transportation and air quality advocates has kicked off a campaign to put a sales tax increase on the November 2022 ballot, aiming to raise money for Sacramento County’s roads, bridges and public transit,” The Galt Herald reported March 2.

The proposal would impose a 0.5 percentage point increase in the county sales tax rate. Consumers making purchases in the city of Sacramento would pay a combined state and local rate of 9.25 percent.

Proponents estimated that the tax increase would cost taxpayers $8.5 billion over 40 years. They said the money would be used to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and support economic growth.

“The group promoting the measure includes the California Alliance for Jobs and the California State Council of Laborers, both labor advocacy organizations, as well as the Sacramento Region Business Association, which represents construction and hospitality businesses in the area,” the Herald reported.

Although the proponents describe the measure as one in which the revenue would be earmarked for specific purposes, they said the tax will need support from a simple majority of voters, not the two-thirds threshold required for special taxes.

“The county has seen two recent efforts to raise infrastructure funds through a sales tax hike,” the newspaper reported. “Both had higher thresholds for passage, and, despite significant support, both ultimately foundered. Most recently, a proposed measure needed only the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors’ approval to appear on the 2020 ballot, and the supervisors were largely in favor of moving it forward. Like the current initiative, Measure A called for a half-cent sales tax increase over 40 years. Amid the upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic, a voter poll showed popular support wasn’t reaching the two-thirds supermajority needed to pass the initiative. The supervisors voted to end the effort. An earlier proposal, Measure B, did reach the ballot box in 2016. Calling for a half-cent tax increase over 30 years, it narrowly fell short of the two-thirds supermajority.”

Sacramento County already has a special sales tax earmarked for infrastructure improvement – a 0.5 percent tax that has been collected since 1988, and is set to remain on the books through 2034.

In other local tax news:

To Get Around Two-Thirds Vote, Manhattan Beach School Board Shifts Attention to Local Parcel Tax Initiative. The board that oversees the Manhattan Beach Unified School District decided March 1 to hold off on placing a parcel tax on the June ballot, and instead wait to see whether a much larger tax qualifies for the ballot through the initiative process.

The board had pondered resolutions that would place two measures on the ballot – one to continue in perpetuity a $225 parcel tax that is set to expire in 2024, with an annual inflation increase, and the other to impose an additional $375 parcel tax for six years.

Instead, the board will wait to see if the initiative calling for a 12-year, $1,095-per-year parcel tax promoted by a group named MB Citizens for Schools will qualify for the ballot. Proponents include members of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation – a nonprofit that solicits voluntary contributions for the school district – and Karen Komatinsky, who served as an elected member of the school board for 10 years, leaving in 2020.

EasyReaderNews.com reported February 18 that the initiative was “a quickly assembled movement” whose proponents gathered 4,087 signatures in nine days to meet a deadline to submit measures for the June ballot. “The effort exceeded the state requirement, which is 10 percent of Manhattan Beach’s roughly 27,000 registered voters, or 2,700 signatures,” the news site stated. The Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder is in the process of verifying signatures.

“The final piece in the push for the parcel tax initiative was newly settled law that allows for a citizen-led initiative – as opposed to a ballot measure proposed by the district itself – to face a 50 percent plus one approval threshold, versus a supermajority requiring 66 percent voter approval,” EasyReaderNews reported.

“There are so many failures with the California ballot system because who can get anything through at two-thirds?” Komatinsky said. “It’s this gobbled-up, jam-packed ballot, that does nothing but make voters weary, and tired. The fact that this will be out there at a simple majority gives us the opportunity to move the needle.” (CalTax: The answer to Komatinsky’s question is that 61 percent of parcel taxes were approved in California from 2010 to 2020 under the two-thirds vote threshold, according to research by the California Tax Foundation. Voters approved 492 parcel tax measures and rejected 310, cumulatively increasing taxes more than $1.48 billion annually.)

School board President Sally Peel was upfront about her desire to have the initiative version on the ballot because the vote threshold would be lower.

“It’s a better initiative for us,” Peel said during the board meeting, according to a March 3 story in the Torrance Daily Breeze. It has “a lower threshold and a 12-year spill into our district.”

Proponents said that if the county doesn’t verify petition signatures for the initiative before the March 11 deadline for the June ballot, they will continue campaigning for the measure on the November ballot.