A Second Sales Tax Hike on November Ballot?

A 1/8-cent sales tax increase could be placed in the Nov. 6 general election ballot to help Santa Clara County provide services facing budget reductions due to federal and state revenue cuts.


The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is considering asking voters to approve a 1/8-cent sales tax increase in the upcoming Nov. 6 general election.

If county supervisors vote in August to place the proposal on the ballot, local residents will see the sales tax go up to 8.5 percent. Combined with the governor's proposed 0.25 percent proposal on the ballot, residents could be paying 8.75 percent in sales next year. 

“The county must take steps to ensure its own destiny,” said Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President George Shirakawa. “We have struggled for 10 consecutive years with substantial budget reductions to services and programs, and faced with uncertain funding from the state and federal government, we have to look to a sales tax to continue critical services to the community.”

On July 1, county residents —less than a penny—with the sales tax increasing from

And Gov. Jerry Brown is also pushing hard for voters to help balance California's budget by passing a

If both the county and state measures passed, Santa Clara County residents would pay 8.75 percent sales tax—the same as Alameda County's residents are already paying.

Several cities in California also pay this much in taxes, because some municipalities have added small fractions of percentages on top of county taxes. Locally, Campbell residents would pay a bit more—8.875 percent—because they are currently paying a "Vital City Services, Maintenance and Protection Transaction and Use" tax of 0.25 percent on top of the current sales tax. 

Supervisors are scheduled to vote on the measure during their Aug. 7 meeting on what is called a second reading.

If the tax increase is allowed by voters, revenues collected would total an estimated $500 million over 10 years, according to a press release issued by the county. The proposed tax has a sunset date. It would go into effect April 1, 2013, and end in 10 years.  

Here's a snapshot of surrounding counties and communities that have similar taxes riding on the state sales tax, which is 7.25 percent. The rates do not include the proposed statewide increase of 0.25 percent on the November ballot. 

  • Alameda County residents pay more. Its sales tax already is 8.75 percent, which includes support for two county transportation measures, plus BART support 
  • San Mateo County's tax rate is 8.25 percent, which includes a half percent for county transit and a half percent for the county transportation authority, and residents of the city of San Mateo pay a quarter percent for transactions and use tax
  • Santa Cruz County's tax rate is 8.5 percent, though cities from Santa Cruz to Capitola have layered on additional small sales tax increases that can brings the total to as much as 9 percent  
  • San Benito County's tax rate is 8.25 percent. Hollister has added a 1 percent sales tax so residents are paying a total of 9.25 percent each time they make a purchase.

If you're interested in what sales tax rates are around the state, consult the state Board of Equalization's publication, "California City and County Sales and Use Tax Rates."

Supervisor Dave Cortese added: “Moving forward with a one-eighth cent sales tax is the next logical step following tough choices we’ve made over the past few years. The County has established a willingness to be fiscally responsible, clearly demonstrated by the great strides we’ve made to tighten purse strings and the $75 million in concessions made by County employees.”

County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith said: “Right now, it’s unclear what state and federal government funding issues and the Supreme Court ruling on healthcare reform are going to do regarding services that are critical to our community. 

"The question really is whether voters in Santa Clara County want to exercise self determination and ensure the current level of services or even increase services in a number of ways for the health and welfare of the community as it has demonstrated in the past.” 

In its release, the county stated funds generated from the tax would be used for:

  • Trauma and emergency services, including the Burn Center, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a Level I Trauma Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
  • Preventive health programs including prenatal care, pediatric care, obesity prevention, and diabetes care.
  • Public safety services including fire and Sheriff.
  • Economic development programs to support job creation in Santa Clara Valley.
  • Disease prevention programs to stop the spread of tuberculosis, syphilis, HIV and other diseases.
  • Housing for homeless children and families.
  • Dental care, mental health, and drug and alcohol treatment.
  • Emergency preparedness.

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