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Thank you for covering Measure B1 (B1) in “Funding the Future,” by Darwin BondGraham. As a member of Urban Habitat, one of the advocate organizations that spent more than a year working to ensure that B1 resulted in a fair and environmentally sustainable set of transportation investments, I appreciate the article’s effort at a balanced assessment of the final measure.
However, it does not go far enough in addressing specific concerns about B1 that often get lost when touting its many benefits.
Below, I highlight those concerns, primarily around the permanent and regressive tax proposed in B1, and also clear up a few inaccuracies.
First, through its regressive tax, B1 does put a lot of needed funding into AC Transit operations to support the needs of bus riders who are overwhelmingly low-income, people of color, youth, seniors and people with disabilities.
But this kind tax hits the people it’s trying to help the hardest, as the lowest income households will pay, as a portion of their income, four times as much as the highest income households. Using sales tax to fund transportation continues California’s ugly habit of having the poor and working class subsidize the transportation of the rich and corporations.
Second, B1 makes the tax permanent. This means voters won’t have a chance to say no to the tax, if in the future, better and less regressive means of funding transportation are adopted. Additionally, community groups and advocacy organizations, such as Urban Habitat and others that worked with TransForm and East Bay Bicycle Coalition, will have much less power to influence the spending priorities of future iterations of the tax.
Alameda County voters will no longer have the leverage that a 2/3 voter threshold for tax measures grants us, as we did this round. Because of this leverage, transportation advocates and community groups were able to increase funding for transit in the proposed B1 by more than $300 million.
For these two reasons – tax regressivity and permanence – many organizations that are supportive of the B1 funding priorities are still unable to endorse the measure. Urban Habitat is just one of them.
Also, please note that B1 allows for up to 4% of proceeds to be used toward administrative costs (not 1% as was written in the article).
Again, there are several good reasons to vote for the measure and many good reasons to vote against it. Our focus is on ensuring that people understand the tradeoffs and on continuing to work on the difficult task of establishing more progressive ways to fund transportation.
For more information, see our website: www.urbanhabitat.org.
Transportation Justice Program, Urban Habitat
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