Telecommuting Incentive Act

DATE: November 9, 1999 
TO: Board of Supervisors
SUBJECT:TELECOMMUTING INCENTIVE ACT

SUMMARY:
An estimated eight million Americans telecommute from home while many more telecommute from satellite offices or telecommuting centers. By providing employers with tax credits and other incentives, governments can play an important role in increasing telecommuting opportunities and, therefore, reducing traffic congestion.

Recommendation: 
SUPERVISOR JACOB:

1. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to work with the San DiegoCounty business community, the Air Pollution Control District, and the State Department of Personnel Administration to develop a regional telelcommuting incentive program for San Diego County.

2. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to work with the County's Sacramento legislative representative to seek legislation to support a San Diego County telecommuting incentive program and to identify State funding for the program.

3. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to investigate possibilities for expanding telecommuting opportunities for County employees.

4. Direct the Chief Administrative Officer to return to the Board in 60 days with a progress report on the County's efforts to increase telecommuting opportunities.

Fiscal Impact: 
These actions can be performed within the existing budget.

BACKGROUND: 
According to recent surveys, traffic remains a major concern for San Diego County residents. With the region's population expected to increase by more than 40 percent over the next 20 years and with travel expected to increase by 50 percent, traffic congestion will only continue to grow. Even if road funds were unlimited, the fact remains that there is only so much space left to widen existing roadways and build new roads. Although we need to continue our efforts to improve our regional transportation system and ensure that balanced planning decisions are made, we need to take additional action.

To alleviate traffic congestion, we need to make every effort to develop a new and creative commuting system. With the new technology that has been developed and the increase in its availability, we have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the quality of life for our residents, while at the same time reducing traffic, cutting real estate costs and other business expenses, improving air quality, and increasing productivity.

Some employers have already recognized the benefits of offering their employees flexible hours and the option to telecommute from satellite and home offices one or more days a week. However, by providing businesses with incentives such as tax breaks, governments can increase telecommuting options and remove more traffic from our roads.

Several governments have already taken steps to advance telecommuting opportunities. The Oregon legislature made telework projects eligible for the State Business Energy Tax Credit to encourage alternatives to drive alone commuting. Oregon employers can obtain a tax credit for purchasing and installing new or used telework equipment such as computers, fax machines, modems, phones, printers, software, or copiers. The employee must telework at least 45 days per calender year. Projects that reduce employee business-related travel by at least 25 percent can also qualify.

In 1986, the Governor of Arizona directed every State agency, board and commission located within Maricopa County to implement the State of Arizona Telecommuting Program. In California, the State Department of Personnel Administration and the Department of General Services assist California government agencies with the development of telecommuting programs. The California Department of Transportation has embraced telecommuting by funding the establishment and evaluation of 12 telework centers statewide. The U.S. General Services Administration has also established telework centers in partnership with several states, including California.

By providing tax breaks and other incentives, the County of San Diego could also play a role in increasing the use of telecommuting and reducing local traffic congestion. Besides using State funds, other funding sources for an incentive program could include the use of motor vehicle registration funds collected under AB2766 and property tax revenue.

In addition to telecommuting, local businesses could receive tax incentives by taking other actions to voluntarily reduce the number of miles driven by their employees. For example, businesses could consider siting new locations based on where the majority of their employees reside. The decrease in employee driven miles could be tracked using a system similar to the current method used by the County Courts to determine the mileage that court jurors drive.

I encourage you to support this effort to help more County residents live where they work and work where they live.

Respectfully Submitted,

DIANNE JACOB
Supervisor, Second District