Poll showed SF voters had favorable attitude toward new revenue measures

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By Rebecca Bowe

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Would you pay five cents more for this if it was going to fund local health care services?

So the city of San Francisco is staring down a $522 million deficit for next year. Does this mean local elected officials are seriously exploring options for new revenue measures? When we asked Board President David Chiu last week if new revenue options were in the cards for next year, he replied, “that has to be one part of the equation.”

David Metz, a partner in Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, says he discovered that a majority of San Franciscans supported certain revenue-generating options after his firm was commissioned by the San Francisco Labor Council to conduct a poll. FMMM&A has conducted polls on hundreds of tax and bond measures since 1980, when the firm was established.

“There was a majority of support for a number of different options,” Metz told the Guardian. FMMM&A asked 600 “likely voters” in San Francisco in July if they would approve temporary tax increases that would be imposed for no more than three years to help prop up city services. Tossing out a few ideas for bringing in more money, this is what they found:

· 72 percent of respondents said they would support a nickel-per-drink tax on alcoholic beverages in bars, in order to bolster city health-care services. 27 percent were opposed.

· 58 percent said they would vote for an increase in tax charges to hotel / motel guests. 37 percent said nay.

· 60 percent said they’d support a temporary half-cent sales tax increase. 38 percent opposed it.

· 53 percent said they’d support a 2 percent, temporary tax on the value of cars registered in San Francisco, while 44 percent said they’d reject it.

The pollsters may or may not have posed additional revenue-related questions to voters, as Metz indicated in response to our question that these results are the only ones he is authorized to share with the public.

According to Metz, a simple majority of votes at the ballot is required for general tax increases in San Francisco, while a two-thirds majority vote is required when revenues would be funneled into a particular program or service, as is the case with the conceptual five-cent alcoholic beverage tax. So according to these polling numbers, these four measures could’ve cleared the necessary hurdles in November. Did any of them make it onto the ballot? Negative. There might be a different story next time around.

Sup. Chris Daly told the Guardian yesterday that there are ongoing discussions about the city’s options with regard to new revenue measures, but no specific proposals are on the table at the moment. He added that with a statewide general election coming up next November, placing new tax measures on the ballot then is more likely than in June.