Lawsuit targets toll authority over $3 bridge toll increase

By Erin Baldassari : mercurynews – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO — A taxpayers association, on behalf of three plaintiffs from Vallejo, Vacaville and Lodi, is challenging a recently approved $3 bridge toll increase in state court — a move that could potentially delay or eliminate the measure.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association filed the suit Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court against the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA). It challenges the notion that Regional Measure 3, which voters approved last month, is a “fee” requiring only a simple majority to pass, rather than a “tax,” which requires two-thirds voter approval.

The suit asks that the toll be invalidated…

That’s not a fair increase for the drivers who will be footing the bill for public transit or bicycle and pedestrian projects, which together account for roughly two-thirds of the planned projects, said Timothy Bittle, a lawyer for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. …

Prop 26, which voters approved in 2010, broadened the definition of a tax to include many payments previously considered to be fees, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Fees that benefit the public broadly — rather than providing services directly to the fee payer, such as garbage fees or state park entrance fees — would be considered a tax under Prop 26, the analyst’s office said…(more)

RM3…the Aftermath

Bay Area Transportation Working Group (BATWG)

June 12, 2018

RM3 Approved…..the Aftermath

RM3 was accepted by the voters of the Bay Area on June 5, 2018. This has created a gigantic $4.45 billion slush fund for regional planners to dispense. Considering that the “Yes on RM3” side outspent the “No” side by least 250 to 1 and yet won by a scant 53.9%, the “Yes” side has little to cheer about. Especially since the votes for successive regional transportation funding measures have been dropping.

RM3 Unfair:  As might be expected, non-bridge users voted mostly for RM3 and frequent bridge users voted mostly against it. All else aside, RM3 was patently unfair in terms of who pays and who gets the proceeds of the bridge toll increases.

RM3 Violates California Constitution:  In addition, the RM3 bridge toll increases are being improperly treated as fees (requiring a 50% vote) when they are in fact taxes (requiring a 2/3rd vote).  On November 5, 1997 the Californa voters passed State Proposition 218 which added Article 13C to the California Constitution.  According to Article 13C a bridge toll increase is a fee only “if it is imposed for the exclusive privilege of the payor (driver & passengers)…”  Since the sponsors of RM3 plan to use the bridge toll increases to pay for expensive projects scattered around the Region including in areas where most of the voters virtually never use the bridges, the proceeds of RM3 are clearly not fees.  Since this puts RM3 in direct violation of Article 13C and since the measure passed by 53.9%, not 2/3rds it should be nullified by the Courts.

RM3 Doesn’t Address Regional Transportation Problems:  Another equally fundamental defect in RM3 is that it neither reduces regional traffic congestion nor bolsters the Region’s lagging public transit networks. There are a few worthwhile projects in RM3, but there are also many turkeys.  RM3 loosely defines 35 projects. Here are some highlighted allocations:

  • BART and Muni fleet replacement: $500 million and $140 million (this is needed)
    Caltrain Downtown Extension: $325 million (also needed)
  • Capitol Corridor Upgrade and Dumbarton Rail Crossing: $90million and $130 million (also needed but the allocations are much too small)
  • Ferrys: $300 million (incredibly, 7.3% of RM3 has been allocated to a system that accounts for only 0.05% of Bay Area trips)
  • BART to San Jose: $375 million (needed perhaps, but the anticipated ridership comes no where close to justifying the cost)
  • Fourteen backward-looking, traffic-inducing highway projects: $2,390 million
  • Vaguely defined transit, transit access and trails improvements: 4 projects; $615 million
  • RM3 allocations lavished upon non-bridge using Santa Clara County: $755 million

Conclusions:  Does BATWG think that RM3 will cause the highway backups and the urban congestion to ease? No….we don’t.  Does BATWG think that the increased bridge tolls are taxes and not fees and that therefore RM3 violates the State Constitution?  Yes we do.

For more information about BATWG, go to www.batwgblog.com