The Equity Impacts of California's County Transportation Sales Taxes
Co-PI: Martin Wachs, UCLA; Co-PI: Brian D. Taylor, UCLA
Abstract: As state and federal fuel tax revenues for transportation continue to decline in real dollar terms, financial responsibility has increasingly shifted to local governments. In California, 19 “self-help” counties have Local Option Sales Taxes (LOSTs) to fund transportation projects. While both fuel and sales taxes are considered “regressive” because lower income households tend to pay larger shares of their incomes on such taxes than higher income households, sales tax finance for transportation also means that light users of transportation systems tend to pay more per mile travelled than do heavy users of the system. The ultimate regressivity of LOSTs depends not only on who pays them, but also on how the revenues are spent. When projects and services are funded which benefit lower income households, LOSTs effectively become more progressive. Accordingly, this research will analyze both the collection of LOSTs in California as well as the expenditure of funds to determine how they affect low-income and minority travelers and communities. We will also examine the processes by which the LOST expenditure plans were developed to analyze whether low income and minority groups participated in the formulation of the measures and low income and minority households voted for them.