Measures ask for $39 annually to fund road repair, uninsured kids

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Two measures on the Nov. 2 ballot could have some Santa Clara
County residents setting aside an extra $39 a year to help keep
county children healthy and repair local roads.
Two measures on the Nov. 2 ballot could have some Santa Clara County residents setting aside an extra $39 a year to help keep county children healthy and repair local roads.

If Measure A passes with two-thirds voter approval, property owners will pay a $29 parcel tax for the next 10 years to assure all county children have access to health care. If Measure B passes $10 will get tacked onto drivers’ annual car registration fees to fund road repairs and improve traffic congestion and safety. A simply majority vote is needed to pass Measure B.

The Children’s Health Protection Act would fund health insurance premiums so uninsured children up to age 19 can get regular immunizations, dental and vision protection and check-ups. Ten years ago, Santa Clara County was the first county in the United States to work to provide health insurance for all children, called the Healthy Kids Initiative.

Yet, as the economy deteriorated, so did funding from private and foundation donations. Passage would maintain the Healthy Kids program that offers coverage regardless of immigration status. Therefore, current beneficiaries of the program would not be eligible for assistance under the federal health reform law.

The measure asks property owners to pay $29 per parcel of land during a span of 10 years beginning Jan. 1. Only children whose parents earn no more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level would be eligible, which is no more than $66,150 gross income per year for a family of four. No funds would be used to fund administrator salaries.

Swanee Edwards, South County Democratic Party chair, said the local chapter is encouraging a yes vote on both measures, especially to keep the Healthy Kids Initiative afloat.

“There are a lot of children who fall through the cracks, their parents either make too much money to get Medical or Medicaid or not enough to afford health insurance. These kids need to be covered,” Swanee Edwards said.

Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate is endorsing Measure A and said he believes children shouldn’t have to suffer because their parents can’t afford medical costs.

“I think every kid deserves an equal chance. Kids that get sick and don’t have the means to get themselves covered and get themselves well, it’s a definite handicap. It just isn’t fair,” Tate said.

The proceeds of the special tax would be deposited into a special account established by the county. The proceeds would only be applied to the specific purposes described in the ballot measure.

The county would be required to keep on file with the County Executive’s Office annual reports stating the amount of funds collected and spent, and the status of any project authorized to be funded. A Citizens Oversight Committee would be established to review the annual report each year to ensure that the tax funds were spent in compliance with the specific purposes approved by the voters. The funds collected and spent would also be subject to an annual audit.

$10 registration fee to repair streets

Voters are also being asked to increase the county’s ability to receive matching funds from the state and federal government to repair potholes, repave streets, improve traffic flow and pay for pollution reduction projects.

A $10 tax would be added to registration fees for every vehicle registered in Santa Clara County.

The Congestion and Road Repairs measure was proposed by the Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Authority board of directors following a public hearing. Its board advocates the tax, saying the county’s cities face a shortfall of $144 million per year to maintain aging streets.

Tate said the amount that would be allocated to Morgan Hill would be “fairly significant to do a fairly significant amount of work.” The exact figure was not available by press time.

Measure B will definitely help people, if people want to tax themselves, Tate said.

“There’s no question that we don’t have sufficient funds that will definitely help augment that,” he said. Though he said he’s not strongly “saying vote for that” because he understands citizens must prioritize in this economy.

Opponents of Measure B say the majority vote needed to pass the fee increase is faulty since under California law taxes must be passed by a two-thirds majority vote. The tax is “masquerading as a fee” according to opponent Douglas McNea, president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers’ Association.

Likewise, Proposition 26 also on the ballot Nov. 2, requires that new state fees be passed with two-thirds vote of the Legislature and establishes the right of voters to approve. Currently, only taxes need two-thirds, not levies defined as “fees.”

The $10 fee is a permanent increase and has no time-limit attached.

“We all know what kind of our shape our roads and infrastructure are in,” Edwards said. Measure B needs to be passed to keep drivers and passengers safe, she said.

If passed, it could raise as much as $14 million to fund road work. Eighty percent of fees collected would go to local road improvement and repair (about $11.2 million), 15 percent to countywide fixes (about $2.1 million) and up to 5 percent (about $700,000) would be used for administrative costs associated with the programs and projects.

Any vehicle that is exempt under the vehicle code from payment of registration fees would be exempt from the $10 fee. The expenditure plan would be audited annually and periodically reviewed by the board to determine if any modifications would be necessary.

If the fee is approved, it would apply to any original vehicle registration and renewal registration occurring on or after six months following the adoption of the measure by the voters.

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