Editorial: Put new taxes in the budget

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Mayor Gavin Newsom still wants to balance this year's municipal budget with no new taxes (although he's happy to raise the fees to use city facilities). The supervisors are looking at a different approach: John Avalos, chair of the budget committee, told us he'd like to see $100 million in new revenue on the table.

Some of that might come from a fee on liquor sales. There's a hotel tax measure being circulated, and the supervisors are also looking at a raising the real estate transfer tax on high-end properties and imposing a commercial rent tax. All but the liquor fee would require a majority vote on the November ballot.

So far, Newsom hasn't given any indication that he'll support any new taxes — and that's due in significant part to his campaign for lieutenant governor. The mayor doesn't want to get hit by his Republican opponent as a tax-and-spend liberal, so he's holding the line, cutting essential services instead of looking for progressive ways to bring in new revenue.

But voters up and down the state have shown their willingness to approve new taxes to save essential services, and it's likely that San Franciscans will do the same — particularly if the folks at City Hall are united in their support.

So here's an idea for the supervisors: why not include that new revenue as part of this year's budget?

There's no legal reason the budget can't be balanced in part on the assumption of new income. November is almost halfway through the fiscal year, but more than $50 million of that revenue would be available for the 2010-11 budget.

There are distinct advantages to including that money in the budget, starting with fewer budget cuts and layoffs now. There's also a clear political advantage: if the voters realize what's at stake — that the money has already been earmarked and that voting it down would mean immediate reduction in vital services — the message of the importance of approving the tax measures would be even stronger.

Equally important, it would force the mayor to show his hand. Newsom would almost certainly prefer to duck the issue, to take a neutral stand on the tax measures ("let the voters decide"). He might wind up opposing all of them. But if the money's already in the budget, what can he do? Without that tax money, the budget won't be legally balanced. Without his support, that tax money might not come through.

It's a risky move. If the voters reject the tax hikes, the supervisors and the mayor would be forced to make painful midyear cuts. But they'll have to make those cuts anyway, either now or in November. And once you shut down services or eliminate nonprofit contracts, it's much harder and more expensive to start them up again.

So this might be the year to take the calculated gamble: assume that money's going to be there. Then everyone, including the mayor, can help make sure that it actually is.

Comments

No!

Unethical. You can't budget based on money you know you probably wont get.

Make the cuts now and, if the voters approve 100MM of tax increases (which I doubt) then restore the cuts.

Even Oakland, which is in far worse shape than SF, is taking that approach and not resorting to blackmail. and they are laying off cops.

Posted by TomFoolery on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 7:35 am

Well how about imposing fees on anyone benifiting from a tax rate frozen since the 1970's under the Jarvis Gann Prop 13 iniative? Its one thing not to taxed out of your home, its another not to pay your fair share.
How about putting a double tax on all new residental approvals as the city is having trouble providing services to the numbers in existence?
How about taxing any institution that insists on having its own shuttle rather than supporting MUNI?
How about includeing a bus as payment to all employees?
Transit funded by property taxes as opposed to sales tax, is not straped when it is needed most.
When large companies pay into the public transit instead of trying to provide shuttles, they lose money, and clog streets with more cars and more buses not in sync.
All public events, and attractions should come with a free bus pass. Tourists are the worst kind of traffic.
When you support public transit in these ways, it works.

Posted by Guest Andrea Antulov on Jun. 30, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

You cannot legally impose a "fee" on anyone who has benefitted from a statutory limit on any other tax.

Free public transit? Yeah! But, er, who exactly is going to pay for that?

Let me guess? Tax the rich?

Back to school, Andrea.

Posted by Folly on Jul. 05, 2010 @ 10:45 am

Dear Miss Folly,

It is not unheard of to do any of the things I suggested. Infact many other cities already have adopted such concepts. They are not new concepts. Infact I forgot rolling a bus pass in student fees for colleges.

My town just lowered our yearly pass, from$230 a year to $60 while expanding 24hr service and coverage area.

And yes you can impose a fee on anyone who has benifted from a statutory limt on another tax. There are too many ways to list.

And if I may speak for the rich, those who can afford taxes unlike yourself- these tourists and people who have to work would be better off, on a bus and out of their way.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

1. The tourism industry gets noting out of that deal. They get taxed to support the people who harass and drive the tourists away.

2. The class obsessed left thinks that only rich people travel.

3. The entitlement to San Francisco, the progressive seems to feel that people visiting SF are infringing on their little toy.

4. I would think that the cities progressive would want people to come and see what a success their pie in the sky liberalism is. People of all economic stripes should be welcome to smell the piss and deal with the aggressive begging. They should be invited to see what a well run and clean bus system we have.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 07, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

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