On Monday August 21 the Palo Alto Post penned a hard-hitting editorial urging voters to reject Caltrain’s proposed 2018 sales tax, which is over triple the tax the agency says it needs in operating subsidies to balance its budget. California Senate Bill 797, sponsored by state Senator Jerry Hill, would allow the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara to place an eighth-cent sales tax on the November 2018 ballot. The tax would raise an estimated $100 million annually for the passenger rail service.
But Caltrain has a long track record of wasting public money, starting with CEO Jim Hartnett, who will get paid $522,000 this year including a $50,000 bonus. Dozens of other Caltrain officials receive bloated salaries and pension benefits, and the agency has wasted tens of millions of dollars bungling the implementation of its Positive Train Control system. Caltrain’s fiscal and technical incompetence is proven.
The editorial also pointed out that such a sales tax “hits poor and middle income earners the hardest”, who spend nearly all their income locally on basic necessities including rent and food. Silicon Valley Leadership Group boss Carl Guardino keeps working to ensure wealthy corporations don’t have to pay a cent for transportation improvements and has never backed a property or corporate revenue tax. The Caltrain sales tax would require yes votes from two-thirds of the total ballots cast in all three counties in the November 6, 2018 election.