Good news! At its 1/17/17 meeting, the San Rafael City Council voted 4-1 to table indefinitely acting on the Transportation Authority of Marin’s request for endorsement of a plan that could have ultimately resulted in the sales tax rate throughout Marin rising as much as 0.5%. To move forward with its plan, TAM was seeking endorsements from all 12 Marin jurisdictions for the first stage of a two part plan to raise the transportation sales tax in Marin. (Part one involved seeking a legislative waiver exempting Marin from the state’s sales tax cap; this would have been followed by a sales tax hike measure on Marin’s 2018 ballot.)
Without support from the City Council of San Rafael, the city with the largest population and highest existing sales tax rate, we’re hopeful that TAM will set aside, for at least two (and more probably 3-4) years, any effort to raise Marin’s transportation sales tax.
This is a first-round victory for Marin taxpayers, who are reeling from the financial strain of a spate of recent tax increases and are urging local officials to look for fiscally sound alternatives to seeking further revenue hikes.
To definitively defeat a raise in the Marin transportation sales tax, constituents should immediately contact Council Members in their cities urging them NOT TO IMMEDIATELY ENDORSE Tam’s plan. Rather, citizens should urge their council members to slow down, and take the time to solicit and consider constituent opinion.
CO$T commends San Rafael City Council’s prudent and thoughtful action in declining to endorse TAM’s proposal at this time. Weighing most heavily in San Rafael’s decision to table action were (1) A deluge of emails from outraged constituents opposing the sales tax rate hike proposal (2)Concerns that TAM’s tight time schedule for moving forward did not permit San Rafael time to engage a large part of its community in considering a controversial proposal and (3)San Rafael’s reluctance to give TAM an endorsement of what’s effectively a “blank sheet” (the agency has not developed a project/expenditure list detailing the planned uses of the funds). Some council members also argued that it’s time for Marin’s agencies and jurisdictions to break the cycle of ever-increasing revenues from tax hikes and concentrate on prudent prioritizing of expenditures. Indeed, San Rafael’s decision not to endorse is a fiscally sound move, as it could mean TAM won’t spend a lot of taxpayer dollars on lobbyists, polling consultants, transportation consultants and staff to advance a 2018 Marin sales tax ballot measure that would certainly face stiff opposition.
At the end of the day, the majority of the San Rafael City Council believed that any endorsement should be on behalf of its constituents and must reflect their sentiment. Without adequate time to inform and seek input from the community, the Council decided it could not endorse in the name of San Rafael taxpayers. San Rafael’s approach and rationale in this instance represent a victory for democratic engagement and transparency – one that sets a standard for all of Marin’s local jurisdictions to emulate.
To learn more, or to sign up for taxpayer alerts, visit COSTMarin.org