South San Francisco, CA June 21, 2017 Press Release from Senator Jerry Hill
Senate Bill 797 Authorizes Caltrain’s Operators to Put a 1/8-Cent Sales Tax Before Voters to Fund Rail Service Improvements and Operations
SACRAMENTO – State Senator Jerry Hill, joined by Senators Jim Beall, Bob Wieckowski and Scott Wiener and Assemblymembers David Chiu, Ash Kalra, Kevin Mullin, Mark Stone and Phil Ting, introduced legislation today that lays the groundwork for Caltrain to fund itself and meet the growing demands for public transportation along the West Bay’s prime transit corridor.
Senate Bill 797 authorizes the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which oversees Caltrain, to put a one-eighth-cent sales tax measure before the voters of San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties to fund the rail service’s capital and operating costs.
“Our region is an economic powerhouse for our state, but its continued growth is jeopardized if our residents cannot get back and forth to work, school and their families because our main transportation corridor cannot accommodate them,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “SB 797 would enable Caltrain, which is now operating at 125 percent capacity, to meet demands for increased service while easing traffic along the Highway 101 corridor.”
“Highway 101 has become so congested that we’ve changed its name to the 101 Parking Lot,” said Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. “This bill would enable voters to dramatically increase Caltrain’s ridership capacity, which would be transformative in the congested 101 corridor.”
Caltrain, which runs from San Francisco to Gilroy, is the only passenger rail service in the U.S. that relies on voluntary contributions from the transportation agencies that formed a partnership to operate the service. The partners that make up the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board are the City and County of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Mateo County Transit District and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.
SB 797 lays the foundation to end fluctuating voluntary contributions by authorizing the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board to seek a perpetual one-eighth-cent sales tax. Several conditions would have to be met before such a measure is put on the ballot in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. They include:
- A two-thirds vote of approval by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board
- A majority vote of approval by the boards of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, the San Mateo County Transit District and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
- A vote of approval at the threshold necessary for a sales tax measure from the boards of supervisors for San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties
If passed and the conditions are met, SB 797 allows the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board to place the ballot measure before voters at any time in the future. The legislation also allows each county to exceed its tax limit as some are at or near the tax ceiling.
“San Mateo County businesses are focused on improving mobility, expanding transit options and reducing congestion,” said Rosanne Foust, president and CEO of the San Mateo County Economic Development Association. “A dedicated Caltrain funding source is critical and should be placed before voters after broad engagement of public agencies and stakeholders in all three counties.”
SB 797 was an unrelated bill that was rewritten to accommodate the legislation on Caltrain. The earlier provisions of SB 797 are expected to be amended into other Hill legislation this summer. The amended version of SB 797 with the Caltrain provisions can be viewed here will be available at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/ on Thursday.
The co-authors of SB 797 are Senator Beall, D-San Jose, Senator Wieckowski, D-Fremont, Senator Wiener, D-San Francisco, Assemblymember Chiu, D-San Francisco, Assemblymember Kalra, D-San Jose, Assemblymember Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Assemblymember Stone, D-Monterey Bay, and Assemblymember Ting, D-San Francisco.