June 19, 2016 - From the June, 20 issue

Senate Transportation Chair Beall Holding Hearing June 24 in LA on Metro’s Sale Tax Expenditure Plan

State Senator Jim Beall, who represents San Jose and Santa Clara County, is currently chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. He has called a Senate oversight committee hearing June 24 at the Metro Headquarters in Los Angeles to hear a presentation of the plan. TPR’s interview of Senator Beall follows this week's interviews of State Senator Robert Hertzberg, Valley Civic Leader Richard Close, and today, Senator Tony Mendoza—each addressing LA Metro’s upcoming vote on the expenditure plan for its now-evergreen ballot measure known as R2.

UPDATE: The Metro Board voted June 23 to send its expenditure plan to the November ballot.


Jim Beall

"There have been studies that have shown that the number one thing you can do to end poverty is to connect people with transportation options and jobs." - State Senator Jim Beall

..."(A)s chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, I am going to have a Senate oversight committee hearing in Los Angeles, at the Metro Headquarters building, from 10 am to 1 pm on Friday, June 24, to hear the presentation of the plan.” - State Senator Jim Beall

As a state senator, what is your take on the transparency involved in selecting the priorities of Los Angeles’ future transportation vision?

I am not directly involved in the Metro Measure R2 process. However, as chair of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, I am going to have a Senate oversight committee hearing in Los Angeles, at the Metro Headquarters building, from 10 am to 1 pm on Friday, June 24, to hear the presentation of the plan. I am interested in discussing what role the state and the federal government can play to create a transformative transportation system in Los Angeles County over the next decade.

I am paying a lot of attention to Los Angeles County because it has a lot of statewide significance. I want to maximize the ability of the state to partner with Los Angeles County on finishing projects efficiently and on-budget. From my experience in San Jose, county half-cent sales taxes are very important in funding projects, but the county cannot do it alone. The county has to work with other available sources of support, such as cap-and-trade funds or the State Transit Assistance (STA) program, to provide transportation financing. To help get more riders out of their cars, we need to build a viable and usable system in Los Angeles County. I have watched the plan develop and I think the plan can work—let’s build it as quickly as possible.

I honestly believe that the county cannot do it alone, and the state will be there to support.  My goal is for all of us to be unified.

From your experience in transportation in unifying your region in San Jose, what have you learned that can be applicable to Los Angeles County in terms of reaching consensus?

I was on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission for 22 years, chairing the Commission. Pulling the region together under one comprehensive plan is incredibly important. Sure, there will be fights and disagreements about small issues like who goes first and second. The state and federal government can help buffer those issues by helping to finish the projects faster and continue to move towards a totally integrated transit system in Los Angeles and other parts of the state. 

In the Bay Area, we have nine counties. It is a little more difficult to get everyone to the table. Not having one large city or county does not allow us to have the convening power that Los Angeles has. What is important is to go to every inch of the county and look at all areas, and figure out how those areas can develop and implement their plans. 

Once you develop a plan and an agreement, stick to it. Don’t change the plan. Take advantage of any opportunities to build the project quicker, and use state and federal money to create the integrated vision we all want. 

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Having been a Santa Clara County Supervisor, I care about the human services part of public transit. There have been studies that have shown that the number one thing you can do to end poverty is to connect people with transportation options and jobs. Building transportation systems quickly will allow them to get to-and-from job centers quickly and affordably.  Connecting low-income areas to job centers in Downtown Los Angeles and other industrial places will empower communities that have been previously left behind. 

I have looked at the Metro plan and it is very exciting. But I also see where they need help to expedite some of the projects that are vitally needed now. Let’s try to get the proposed projects done in this generation. This could be a decade of building transit that accelerates a strong economy.

Metro is proposing to make this sales tax evergreen—that is, without an expiration date. Has there been any support for, or even conversation about, non-expiring sales taxes in your region of the Bay Area?

I think that at a certain length, it makes sense to not sunset the sales tax because you can have a better price on your bonds and lower the interest rates. It is much better to have a stable source of revenue, as supposed to repeatedly having to go to voters to renew sales taxes. This allows for not only building the transit system, but affording the costs of operating it. Over the long run, you save money by building projects all at once and expedite our efforts to combat air pollution caused by vehicles.

When you build the entire project at once, you create a sense of completeness that increases ridership. Often, the first phase of projects does not get the ridership originally expected.  Building projects all at once will lower pollution, stimulate economic vitality, and create job opportunities.

Based on your expertise, share what voters are ultimately looking for in a plan when they go to the polls.

Voters want a plan that gets projects done on time and on budget, with good management of projects and a watchdog over the costs. It is important to design the projects up-front, so the project stays consistent. Having a plan to accelerate the projects using other sources of funding will also build confidence in voters.  How you measure your success is also important, whether by riders per dollars spent or projects completed before the deadline. 

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© 2019 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.