Question:

Doesn’t the gas tax and developers pay for the transportation projects in our region? How did we get here? Why do we need another tax?

Answer:

Over the years, the effective buying power of the gas tax has dwindled.  The state excise tax is 18 cents per gallon, and the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon; these were last raised in 1994 and 1993, respectively, and are not indexed for inflation.  In 2002, the voters approved Proposition 42, which directed the sales tax on gasoline to transportation purposes.  This created problems for the state budget under Proposition 98 and the requirement that 40 percent of state budget funds go to education, so in 2010, the state did what was called a gas tax swap.  Essentially, they created what they call a “price based excise tax” as a proxy for the sales tax on gasoline.  This penciled out to the equivalent of about 18 cents a gallon back in 2011, and by 2016 it was dropped to 9.8 cents because of the lower price of gas.  All of these funds go to transportation.

PCTPA has always prioritized the funds available. Every penny received from the gas tax has been used for transportation purposes. But as noted above, the gas tax revenues just don’t go as far as they used to.  In fact, the buying power of the gas tax is about 40 percent of what it was 20 years ago.  So that means fewer roads get maintained, and fewer improvements get built.  Those delays also means that the costs for the maintenance and improvements becomes even more expensive.

In regard to developer impact fees, these are charged on a “development unit equivalent” basis to all new development – residential, commercial, industrial – to pay for the local and regional transportation impact of the new development. Note that this is not “free” money, but ultimately passed on by the developer to the new home buyer or business user. By the state constitution, developer impact fees can only pay for the incremental impact of the new development, and can’t be used to pay for existing deficiencies, or it becomes a tax rather than a fee. PCTPA has set developer impact fees at what are the highest allowed before it would become an illegal tax, and got the developers and land owners to agree to this fee. In the draft transportation plan, developer impact fees pay for almost all of the Placer Parkway, and a significant chunk of the Highway 65 widening. But neither pays for those programs completely, and it is difficult (sometimes impossible or impractical) as well as inefficient to build “part of a freeway” so extra funds are needed to do the full project. Since much of the I-80/Highway 65 interchange deficiencies already exist and there is already so much traffic using the facility, the proportional impact from development is very small and PCTPA can’t legally assess much in the way of developer impact fees to pay for the important improvement. It is also important to note that developer impact fees cannot be assessed to pay for repairing and maintaining existing roads.

Together, state and federal gas and excise taxes and developer fees are projected to bring in around $1.4 billion over the next 30 years to Placer County, far short of the $3.5 billion in needs on the list of projects already curtailed back from $8 billion. A local transportation sales tax measure would make up the difference by generating new funds and helping to attract more state and federal dollars.

Question:

What is a local transportation sales tax? Is that another tax on gas or other transportation-related purchases?

Answer:

A local transportation sales tax is the primary means of local funding authorized in state law. PCTPA’s Transportation Investment Plan is funded by a half percent local transportation sales tax that would expire no later than 30 years from now. PCTPA’s Investment Plan also contains state law requirements and the best practices from other counties that have adopted local transportation taxes, including:

  • Funds must stay local
  • Funds are controlled by local elected officials
  • Funds cannot be raided by the state or federal government
  • Funds must be tied to a specific transportation expenditure plan — that is, a specific list of projects
  • Dollars generated can only be spent on a specific list of projects (the investment plan)
  • The tax must be approved by the voters with a 2/3 majority vote
  • The investment plan (list of projects) cannot be changed without public approval
  • The ordinance contains strong taxpayer safeguards including a citizen oversight committee with independent audits and an annual report to the taxpayers

 

This tax applies to anything eligible for sales tax, not just gas or transportation-related purchases such as automobiles or tires.

Question:

Was any other type of tax studied, like a parcel tax or a local gas tax?

Answer:

Early in the planning process for the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan, PCTPA looked at a wider variety of revenue streams, including a property or parcel tax and a local gas tax. State law and case law creates some complications on a parcel tax in that the value has to relate to the added benefit to the property or parcel. It was also noted that with a property tax, only Placer residents would be taxed and there would be no assessment of out-of-county residents using our roads. Additionally, there isn’t an option to implement a local gas tax as it is not legal under current statutes.  Even if PCTPA did have the authority to pursue a local gas tax, it would need to be about $.50 per gallon to generate the equivalent of a transportation sales tax and, even then, people would simply fill up in Citrus Heights or Grass Valley to avoid the higher gas price.

We also looked at public-private options for funding. We looked at converting the carpool lane on I-80 to a High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane, which would allow single occupant vehicles to drive in the carpool lane for a fee. The study found that, for at least the next 20 years, it would cost more to operate the HOT lane than it would generate in revenue. We also looked at developing the Placer Parkway as a toll road. Again, interest evaporated when the studies showed that the toll road would not generate enough revenue to make it attractive to private sector investors.

Question:

Biking is popular in Placer County for both commuting and recreation. Does the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan contain any bikeway additions, expansions or improvements?

Answer:

Bike and pedestrian improvements are one of the four main components of PCTPA’s transportation plan. It’s a balanced approach that reflects the fact that more people would choose to cycle if they had appropriate and safe routes that connect to the places they want to go.

The Transportation Investment Plan represents a game-changing investment in bike and pedestrian mobility. If Measure M passes, funds from the bicycle and pedestrian mobility fund will be distributed to local jurisdictions. PCTPA is still finalizing the details on the specifics, but safety and connectivity will certainly be part of the criteria.  PCTPA is also proposing to establish an advisory committee to help update the Regional Bikeway Plan to identify those critical needs and connections on both a local and regional level.

Should there be new funding to dedicate to bikeways, the implementation will almost surely be at the local level, so you are urged to reach out to the Placer County Public Works Department and/or your local city public works division to express your concerns and suggestions now. That way they will know where to prioritize these funds if and when Measure M passes and more funds for bicycle mobility are available.

Question:

Local roads in Placer County are in terrible shape. Will the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan fund local street and road improvements and fill those potholes?

Answer:

Repairing local streets and roads is a key part of the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan. Some streets and roads, especially those in the rural parts of our county, are in such disrepair that the pavement is actually crumbling away. The Investment Plan would allocate money on a fair share formula to local jurisdictions every year to help with fix the pavement as well as deal with local congestion hot spots. This would also include a special pot of money specifically for rural road repairs in the unincorporated parts of Placer County.

A local transportation sales tax measure could generate $480 million over the course of 30 years for local street and road improvements, which gives each local jurisdiction the added funding to meet their needs. Without new funding, Placer County has no way to keep up with the repairs and maintenance to many of the streets and roads in our county.

Question:

Why isn’t Light Rail Expansion included in the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan?

Answer:

PCTPA has studied extending Light Rail to Placer County, and it doesn’t work at this time for a number of reasons that can be summarized as:

  1. Far higher cost versus ridership of light rail relative to alternatives including Capitol Corridor intercity rail and commuter bus
  2. Lack of interest on the part of Sacramento Regional Transit
  3. Inability for light rail to climb grades east of Rocklin

What will work and better meets the needs of Placer County residents is to expand Capitol Corridor rail service, which is included in PCTPA’s Transportation Investment Plan. The rider profile for intercity/commuter rail proposed for the Capitol Corridor project is suburban commuters who want to travel distances of 20 miles or more, with a quick trip and a limited number of stops. This type of train service is considered heavy rail on existing tracks with a dedicated right of way that is shared with freight trains and the like.

The plan for the Capitol Corridor expansion is to first add a third track between Sacramento and Roseville that would allow for ten round trips a day. There is currently only one. In the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan, PCTPA is proposing to fund the share of improvements in Placer County, which is about 1/3 of the cost. More details on the Third Track can be found at http://www.sactoroseville3rdtrack.com/home/ .

The transportation plan also builds on the very successful commuter bus services provided by Placer County Transit and Roseville Transit into downtown Sacramento. By adding more commuter buses to serve more locations, we can give commuters more options and help ease our traffic congestion.

Question:

Government has a reputation of mishandling funds and raiding coffers. What guarantees do taxpayers have that funds generated from a proposed half percent sales tax will be spent appropriately?

Answer:

To ensure the funds are spent as promised, PCTPA has added strong taxpayer safeguards to the plan. When a local agency proposes to raise taxes with a specific spending plan, voter approval at the 67 percent threshold is required, and the money must be spent as promised in the spending plan. The spending plan cannot be changed without public approval. PCTPA has listed the exact projects the money will fund in the Transportation Investment Plan. Additionally, an independent taxpayer’s oversight committee has been added to the proposal. The oversight committee would have the authority to independently audit the spending on an annual basis, and report its findings directly to the taxpayers.

It is also worth noting that PCTPA has delivered every project it has managed on time and on budget.

Question:

There are a lot of regional draws in Placer County such as the Roseville Galleria, The Fountains, the Roseville Auto Mall, Placer wineries, sports facilities and Tahoe ski resorts, to name a few. Would everyone – Placer County resident or not – who makes a purchase in Placer County pay the proposed tax? Would that affect business?

Answer:

Payment of the sales tax would be shared by everyone who purchases something in Placer County, including the many visitors and shoppers who come from outside Placer County. The tax would be applied to all retail sales transactions that are currently subject to sales tax. That includes non-food retail sales, dining out, and the like.

Many of the folks that take advantage of these regional draws come from places that already have transportation and other local option sales taxes. Twenty counties around California including virtually all of the Bay Area and covering about 85% of the population have had transportation sales taxes since the 1980’s and early 1990’s. While Placer County’s sales tax rate is currently 7.5%, Sacramento County’s sales tax rate is 8%, the City of Sacramento is at 8.5%, and Grass Valley is at 8.125%.

Of greater concern for our regional draws is the ability to access them. Without added funding to address our transportation needs, there is great concern that people may think twice before enduring the traffic congestion to get to the Galleria or sports facilities, or risking their car’s suspension on worsening pavement to get to Placer County wineries.

Question:

The plan is organized into four categories: Highways, Local Streets & Roads, Transit & Rail and Pedestrian & Bikes. How was the Transportation Investment Plan developed?

Answer:

After years of extensive community outreach, PCTPA has developed a plan that reflects the diverse transportation needs of every person and every part of our county. The needs in south Placer, for example, are far different than those in the eastern part of the County.  In starting the development, PCTPA staff has worked with every city and every unincorporated area, as well as met with nearly every business group, service club and local elected official in the County to collect input and create a transportation plan that best serves the people of Placer County.

Public input has been the most critical part of the development of this plan. We have conducted polls and focus groups to get better understanding of the public’s needs. In November 2015, PCTPA held a round of town hall meetings throughout Placer County to gather input and collect feedback, and in February 2016 a series of telephone forums were held for the same purpose. We have gotten hundreds of e-mails through our outreach efforts to comment on the plan. This feedback has helped mold the Transportation Investment Plan into one that serves the needs of all residents across the county.

Question:

Why aren’t more funds allocated for public transportation?

Answer:

Transit is one of the four main components of the Transportation Investment Plan, and includes expanded Dial-A-Ride Service for seniors and people with disabilities, adding more commuter bus service, and increasing Capitol Corridor Amtrak service between Sacramento and Roseville from one roundtrip to ten roundtrips per day, to start.

In fact, a cornerstone of the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan is the expansion of Capitol Corridor rail service. The rider profile for intercity or commuter rail proposed for the Capitol Corridor project is suburban commuters who want to travel distances of 20 miles or more, with a quick trip and a limited number of stops. These types of train service are considered heavy rail on existing tracks with dedicated right of way that are shared with freight trains and the like.

The plan for the Capitol Corridor expansion is to first add a third track between Sacramento and Roseville that would allow for ten round trips a day. There is currently only one. In the Keep Placer Moving Transportation Investment Plan, PCTPA is proposing to fund the share of improvements in Placer County, which is about 1/3 of the cost. More details on the Third Track can be found at http://www.sactoroseville3rdtrack.com/home/ .

The transportation plan also builds on the very successful commuter bus services provided by Placer County Transit and Roseville Transit into downtown Sacramento. By adding more commuter buses to serve more locations, we can give commuters more options and help ease our traffic congestion.

Question:

How does PCTPA work with the various city governments in Placer County?

Answer:

The PCTPA Board of Directors is comprised of one councilmember from each of Placer County’s six incorporated jurisdictions (cities/town), two members from the Placer County Board of Supervisors and one citizen representative appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Additionally, PCTPA works hand in hand with all of the city and County public works directors and engineers. Under this Transportation Investment Plan, local jurisdictions will receive funding to manage Local Streets & Roads projects as well as Bike & Pedestrian projects. Furthermore, local jurisdictions will be required to provide a report to PCTPA and the Citizen’s Oversight Committee that specifically details how funds were spent and honors the will of the voters as it relates to implementation and improvements.

Question:

Residents in Placer County pay a lot of money in property taxes, especially if they live in a master planned community. What percentage of property tax does PCTPA receive?

Answer:

Zero. PCTPA does not receive any monies from property tax. Because of the toll new development takes on our roads, PCTPA has been very aggressive about developer impact fees. In fact, these fees are in place throughout South Placer County at the maximum level allowable. These fees ensure the developer pays for its share of the traffic impact to major roads.

The benefit of a transportation sales tax is that it allows PCTPA to capture a significant chuck of the funding from non-Placer residents who still use Placer roads – contributing to the traffic and the wear – but would not pay any property taxes or impact fees.

Question:

If PCTPA doesn’t receive any portion of property tax, how is the agency and its projects funded?

Answer:

PCTPA receives federal and state dollars to plan and administer transportation projects, as well as local developer fees when appropriate. Subsequently, PCTPA has the ability to attract additional federal and state dollars for transportation projects if it has more local dollars to put up as a match. Measure M would generate the local dollars needed to attract more federal and state dollars for local transportation projects.

Question:

If voters should adopt a local transportation sales tax, will that disqualify Placer County from receiving state and federal transportation funds?

Answer:

Just the opposite! The state and federal government are requiring increasingly large amount of local transportation funds to match their funds. In fact, under the now-expired Proposition 1B, the State provided $2 billion of matching funds to counties that had passed local option transportation sales taxes. Since Placer County is one of the largest counties left in California without a local source of transportation funds, the county misses out on a big chunk of available matching funds.

PCTPA estimates that with the approximately $1.6 billion that a half percent transportation sales tax would raise in Placer County over the next 30 years, we could attract over $500 million in additional state and federal matching funds that would otherwise go to other jurisdictions. Together, this would fill the region’s $2.1 billion funding gap.

Question:

It’s the development that’s causing the gridlock. Why don’t you have developers pay for transportation improvements?

Answer:

Much of the funding for major transportation projects comes from developer impact fees, and PCTPA has been very aggressive in collecting them. In fact, these fees are in place throughout South Placer County at the maximum level allowable.

Developer Impact Fees are charged on a “per development unit equivalent” basis to all new development – houses, commercial, industrial to pay for the local and regional transportation impact of the new development. Note that this is not “free” money, but ultimately passed on by the developer to the new home buyer or business user. By the state constitution, developer impact fees can only pay for the incremental new impact of the new development, and can’t be used to pay for existing deficiencies, or it becomes a tax rather than a fee. PCTPA has set developer impact fees at what are the highest allowed before it would become an illegal tax, and got the developers and land owners to agree to this fee.

In the Transportation Investment Plan, developer impact fees pay for almost all of the Placer Parkway, and a significant chunk of the Highway 65 and Baseline Road widenings. But neither pays for those programs completely, and it is difficult (sometimes impossible or impractical) as well as inefficient to build “part of a freeway,” so extra funds are needed to do these programs right. Since much of the I-80/Highway 65 interchange deficiencies already exist, PCTPA can’t legally assess much in the way of developer impact fees to pay for the important improvement. Nor can developer impact fees be used to pay for repairing and maintaining existing roads.

Question:

Do other counties have a local transportation tax?

Answer:

Yes. In fact, Placer County is one of the largest counties in California without a local transportation sales tax. If you’ve purchased anything in Sacramento County, or in many of the counties in the Bay Area or Southern California over the last 30 years, you’ve paid a transportation sales tax that funds that county’s transportation projects.

A local transportation sales tax ensures that those who reside outside of the county also pay for the wear and tear on roads they use while doing business or partaking in leisure activities inside the county.