The taxpayers' group that is suing to stop Santa Clara County from placing a 1/8th-cent sales tax on the Nov. 6 ballot waited too long to protest the board of supervisors' vote on the matter, and has failed to prove that the county made any error in placing the proposed tax on the ballot, according to arguments filed late Tuesday by county attorneys.
In their 19-page filing with Superior Court Judge Kevin McKenney, the county attorneys also say that the lawsuit filed last week by the Silicon Valley Taxpayers' Association narrowly interprets Prop. 218. That state law includes a section requiring proposed tax increases to appear on a ballot where, in this case, at least one seat for the Board of Supervisors also will appear. Backers of the law say they intended that section to force local candidates to publicly announce whether they endorsed a tax.
But because all three county supervisor races were decided in the June 5 primary, the taxpayers' group said the sales tax measure, titled Measure A, is invalid.
County attorneys, however, say the express purpose of Prop. 218 was to give voters the right to vote on taxes during the presidential and gubernatorial election cycle, when the greatest number of voters were likely to turn out.
"SVTA's novel interpretation would result in absurd, unintended consequences,'' the county attorneys say in their court filing, noting that if their opponent's argument was true, voters in the county "would
The county attorneys don't deny that Prop. 218 was designed to require local agencies to obtain voter approval at regularly scheduled general elections, which in the county occur every two years. However, they call the taxpayer group's interpretation that local candidates also appear on the same ballot "extreme.''
The phrase "regularly scheduled general election'' has an established meaning, the county attorneys say in their filing. "Thus, a county tax measure may appear on the November ballot, even in the absence of a run-off, because it is an election scheduled to take place at stated intervals in the event a run-off election occurs.''
Attorneys on both sides will present their case Friday morning before Judge McKenney, who has been asked to rule on the matter as soon as possible before a Sept. 7 deadline facing the Registrar of Voters to print ballot-related materials. Depending on when the judge rules, either side would then have time to appeal their case to the 6th District Court of Appeal by that date.
In their filing, the county attorneys -- lead by lead Deputy County Counsel Susan Swain and Assistant County Counsel Orry Korb -- also said if the group's effort succeeds, it would have serious repercussions on public services and programs.
If passed, the eighth-cent general sales tax measure would raise an additional $498.5 million over its 10-year span. County supervisors say it could pay for such things as law enforcement, job creation, emergency room services, health care for lower-income children, housing for the homeless and programs to help students stay in school.
The county attorneys also say that the chronology of events surrounding the tax measure that began on June 5 through the board's final vote on the matter Aug. 7 offered plenty of time for the taxpayers' group to file a lawsuit. But they waited too long, the county attorneys said.