How a Santa Clara County sales tax hike died before a vote
The Board of Supervisors met Tuesday. Photo by Katie Lauer.

Silicon Valley residents who worry they’re being overtaxed can breathe a sigh of relief. They just dodged another one.

A proposed 5/8-cent sales tax increase pitched by county lawmakers to fund health care, child care and environmental protections won’t appear on the ballot next year.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez decided Tuesday to pull her proposal off the Board of Supervisors agenda, saying she didn’t have the votes.

“When we took the vote two weeks ago, it was clear to me that we didn’t have the four votes,” Chavez told San José Spotlight in an interview. “But I didn’t want to not let the staff finish the work product that we would ask them for.”

The proposed sales tax would have increased the current countywide rate from 9 percent to 9.625 percent and could have generated an estimated $250 million to the general fund annually, beginning in 2021.

When first brought to the board Aug. 20, Supervisor Mike Wasserman voted against the proposed tax and Board President Joe Simitian abstained. To place a fiscal measure on the ballot, at least four county supervisors must vote in favor.

A handful of voters cited support for the tax measure to support services like health care, child care, climate change protection and the preservation of agricultural land.

But that support wasn’t echoed entirely throughout the community.

Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association Vice President Pete Constant said he’s relieved that the measure was dropped for taxpayers’ sake.

“I’m hoping that it was pulled by the county because they realized that there’s only so much pressure you can put on the taxpayers,” Constant said. “Over the last four or five years, there’s just been a ton of increases in taxes in the county, and the cumulative impacts upon the residents are really staggering.”

Constant said another concern is the lack of assurance about how the tax revenue would be spent.

“I think taxpayers as a whole are skeptical when money just gets put into the general fund, because it makes it even harder to connect those dots,” he said. “All too often, it goes in a void.”

Indeed, an array of critical public comments appeared online about the proposed sales tax increase.

Resident Dee Danna said the supervisors “have an arrogant lack of connection to their constituents” and they “think taxpayers have bottomless bank accounts.”

Another resident, Wayne Lambert, used female-directed expletives and called for Chavez to “drop dead.”

“Honestly, this is not something I would respond to,” Chavez said. “We shouldn’t let anybody bully us into not acting, speaking or doing what we think is right. I certainly didn’t let that influence me.”

Contact Katie Lauer at klauer77@gmail.com or follow @klauer77 on Twitter.

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