By Khalida Sarwari
Cupertino elected officials have scrapped a controversial plan — for now — to impose an employee tax on Apple and other businesses in the city, saying they don’t want to move forward in haste and will instead ask voters to weigh in during a special election in 2019.
Though the city council intended only to discuss the plan Tuesday night, after impassioned public comment during which several people spoke out against the proposal as either too vague or unfair to businesses, the council voted 3-1 to put off placing a measure on the November 2018 ballot. Vice Mayor Rod Sinks recused himself because his wife is an Apple employee.
Councilman Barry Chang dissented, saying that waiting even another year would prolong the city’s transportation problems. While the council had not yet come up with specific plans to use revenue generated by the so-called head tax, it had broadly earmarked transit and housing improvements.
“I think not only here, the big corporations in the entire nation, the corporations need to take up their fair share to help solve the problems we are facing now,” Chang said. “So that’s why this issue needs to be done and needs to be done now instead of waiting.”
Chang said he proposed a more ambitious plan two years ago — which would have charged businesses $1,000 per employee — but that that proposal was shot down by other council members.
“Two years ago, no council member supported it, so nothing happened,” he said. “Two years passed. If we don’t do anything this time now, another two years will pass, nothing will happen, I guarantee you.”
While Councilman Steven Scharf appeared to be in agreement with Chang about the urgency of addressing the region’s transportation problems, he explained, “We can’t do this justice in two weeks.”
The council would have had to agree by July 3 on the details of the proposed tax in order to get it on the November ballot. Instead, the council now plans to discuss on July 3 whether it should propose a general or special tax on businesses to put before voters in 2019.
With the latest proposal, Cupertino appeared to be modeling its neighbor, Mountain View. That city is also exploring new taxes based on employer headcounts that could be spent on transit and other improvements. Under Mountain View’s proposal, businesses would pay a progressive flat rate amount and a progressive per employee rate, with the goal of generating $6-7 million a year.