Half the new money would go to the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau while the other half would be split between the Oakland Zoo, the Chabot Space and Science Center, and cultural arts programs and festivals in the city. We could argue with the distribution (arts festivals should probably get more money and the Visitors Bureau less) but overall, it raises the hotel tax to the level of most other cities in the area and would raise money for the sorts of programs hotel taxes typically fund.
Measure D is a technical amendment to the Oakland Kids First law that mandates spending on programs for children and youth. It changes the spending requirement from 1.5 percent of total city revenues to 3 percent of the general fund. That's slightly less money than the program currently gets, but a lot more than it has had over the past decade. The coalition that put Kids First on the ballot in 1996 (and modified it in 2008) supports this modest change.
Measure F is a creative new tax. It would impose a 1.8 percent gross receipts tax ($18 per $1,000 in sales) on medical marijuana businesses. Most efforts to hike business taxes face bitter opposition from business owners, but in this case, the pot clubs are happy to pay. In fact, the four dispensaries in Oakland are among the measure's strongest supporters. Paying taxes tends to legitimize the clubs and while it's going to be tricky to track sales in what is still largely a cash business where records have in the past been kept vague to avoid the threat of federal prosecution, this is a strong step in the right direction.
Measure H would prevent big corporations from cheating Oakland out of real estate transfer taxes. Under current law, a business that owns property in Oakland and is bought by another business (or becomes part of a merger) doesn't have to pay transfer taxes on the property it owns. Closing that loophole could bring in as much as $4.4 million a year.
There's a lesson here for the much larger city across the Bay.
San Francisco desperately needs new revenue. And while the mayor has talked, in vague terms, about maybe supporting some sort of tax measures in November, he hasn't committed to anything. There are several proposals floating around the board, the latest of which is a Labor Council-supported tax on alcohol consumption, but no coherent package. The progressives on the board both those who support the compromise Newsom budget and those who don't need to set aside those differences, now, and get to work on finding ways to bring in enough new money to deal with the impacts of further state cuts and stave off some of the layoffs slated for the fall.
The main obstacles are Sups. Sean Elsbernd and Michela Alioto-Pier. Everyone who cares about saving services in this city needs to pressure them to back away from their GOP-style no-new-taxes stands. If those two would at least agree to let the voters decide on new revenue measures, the city would likely get a unanimous board and the ability to raise taxes with a simple majority vote.
Oakland's pot club tax and real estate transfer tax are great ideas that can be directly imported to San Francisco. The city's business tax could be made more progressive (and bring in new revenue) with a simple change in the tax rates (higher on the big outfits, lower on the small ones). We're dubious about a sales tax increase even a half-percent hike would bring the local tax rate to 10 percent. And, even though the alcohol tax isn't exactly progressive, those ideas could be acceptable as part of a package.
The main thing is that the city will need, at minimum, another $100 million this fall, and probably ought to be looking at raising twice that much. Oakland a city with far fewer resources, a much smaller business base, and radically less wealth is managing to fight its deficit with progressive taxes. What's wrong with San Francisco?
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