City Councils, their city managers and staff throughout Marin and the Bay Area regularly look to find ways to fund their infrastructure needs.

In doing so, they seek to concoct the right financial cocktail, blending income tax, payroll tax, road usage taxes and much more.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is developing a proposal for a new regional transportation measure with a goal of collecting about $1 billion annually, according to the Marin Independent Journal, with spending priorities that include transit improvement, safe streets, connectivity and climate resilience. The priorities are based on taxpayer polling and stakeholder feedback, according to MTC.

But the measure would require a two-thirds majority vote to pass, and a lot of the plan’s details haven’t come into clear focus yet, said David Chan, director of programming and legislation at TAM.

It’s not decided what type of tax voters will be asked to approve. MTC staff are considering a half-cent sales tax, a 0.17% income tax, a 0.36% payroll tax, a 1.52-cent-per-mile road usage charge and other methods.

Chan said a sales tax measure could be difficult to pass in Marin because no Marin agency can exceed a rate of 9.25%. That rate is the sum of a 7.25% state tax and maximum of 2% in local taxes.

Larkspur, San Anselmo, San Rafael and Sausalito have reached the limit. Corte Madera and Fairfax tax rates are a quarter percent short.

Mill Valley Mayor Urban Carmel, a TAM committee member, said he is concerned about how many taxes Marin residents face. The measure “would really need to demonstrate what people are going to get from this and in very, very concrete terms,” he said. “Are we going to get bus services that are actually every 20 minutes, or are we going to get what we have today where there’s literally zero buses in the middle of the day?” he said.

“For jurisdictions that have been really mindful for how they managed their sales tax, the thought of overriding it, that’s going to be incredibly problematic,” said Brian Colbert, chair of the TAM committee and a San Anselmo Town Council member.


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