As a general rule, we detest parcel and sales taxes because they’re regressive — that is, they impact low-income residents the most. Parcel taxes are the worst, because all property owners must pay the same flat fee, regardless of the value of their homes or their ability to pay. Sales taxes are also unfair because low-income people tend to spend a much higher percentage of their wages on items that are subject to sales taxes than wealthy people do. But having said that, we also realize that we live in a state with a badly screwed up tax system that unnecessarily restricts the ability of local governments to employ more progressive tax measures. And so until we fix our broken system, we’re stuck with some regressive taxes if we want to raise much-needed funds for important causes.
The countywide Measure BB is one such tax. It’s a proposed half-percent sales tax that would generate an estimated $7.8 billion over thirty years for a host of mass transportation and road infrastructure projects in Alameda County, including repaving roads and fixing potholes in East Bay cities. It also would help pay for more bike lanes and pedestrian walkways, allowing Oakland, Berkeley, and other cities to become more walkable and bikeable. And it would fund thousands of jobs.
BB, however, is by no means perfect. It includes, for example, $400 million for the BART expansion to Livermore, a flawed plan that promises to encourage more suburban sprawl. It also includes too much money, in our view, for suburban roadbuilding at a time when we should be focusing our resources on projects that get people out of their cars. But the truth is, Measure BB would probably fail to garner the necessary two-thirds vote in the county without the suburban sweeteners. A similar measure lost in 2012 by just 721 votes. So, we’ll take the bad with the very good and support Measure BB.
Before the June primary, we endorsed Mike Honda, Tom Torlakson, and Tim Sbranti in their races against Corporate Democrats, and we wholeheartedly endorse them again this fall. Honda, a longtime liberal Congressman who represents portions of southern Alameda County, is again squaring off against centrist Ro Khanna, the darling of the tech sector and the mainstream press. We prefer Honda by a wide margin. Likewise, Torlakson, the liberal superintendent of California’s public schools, is the clear choice for reelection over Marshall Tuck, a charter-school backer who wants to weaken teacher protections in the state. And Dublin Mayor Sbranti is the easy selection over Republican Catharine Baker for the 16th state Assembly district.
In addition, we’re strongly endorsing Proposition 47, a statewide ballot measure that would reduce many drug offenses and nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. This badly needed measure would save the state hundreds of million of dollars in prison costs each year, and the savings would be used to prevent school dropouts and truancy, and to pay for more mental health and drug abuse treatment programs. It’s a no-brainer.
See the list of our other endorsements so far. We’ll update the list again next week.