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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Local Transportation Sales Taxes: California's Experiment in Transportation Finance


In the mid-1980's, the California legislature began authorizing sales taxes for transportation projects in individual counties. Since then, residents of 18 counties - representing 80% of the state's population - have voted to raise their sales taxes for limited periods to pay for county and city ground transportation improvements. Collectively, these "local transportation sales taxes" (LTST's) generate roughly$2 billion per year for the support of capital investments in new highways and transit systems and the maintenance and operation of existing ones. Since their inception these taxes have been the fastest-growing source of revenue for transportation in California and have become a major tool with which local civic and political leaders bypass obstacles in the state's system of transportation finance and decision-making.

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