Why taxes need to be on SF's budget table


San Francisco missed an opportunity last fall. While communities around the Bay Area were approving new revenue plans, addressing devastating budget cuts in part by raising their own taxes, San Francisco's mayor and supervisors were sitting on their hands, bewailing the fact that passing tax measures is tough.

But this year's budget is even worse than last year's, and the cuts are going to be even more brutal (particularly when you realize that the cuts will come on top of several years of previous cuts). And still, nobody at City Hall seems to be putting forward any plans to mount a campaign for new revenues in the fall.

It's not that hard a sell, really. Brian Leubitz has an excellent report on Calitics about a new poll showing how people in California feel about pressing issues. Budget cuts are a serious concern; so is employment and the economy. Taxes don't even rate.

In other words, even across California, where the population is far more conservative than it is in San Francisco, people worry more about budget cuts than about taxes.

If the supervisors and the mayor made even a half-serious effort to get the message out -- you can raise these taxes or you can accept these cuts -- I think more than half the voters (all you would need this November) would go for the new revenue, easy.

At this point in the budget cycle, this ought to be not only on the table but front and center. We should have half a dozen different revenue plans in the works; legislation should be floating around, the Budget and Finance Committee should be holding hearing, the Controller's Office should be studying the impacts and issuing reports, and the supervisors should be preparing to include the potential revenue from a November ballot measure in their 2010-2011 budget calculations.

Why isn't this happening? It's almost March, and the mayor will be delivering a budget in less than three months, and at that point the supervisors will have a short few weeks to deal with devastating cuts. And it will be too late at that point to start the debate over new revenue sources.

This is the year, folks. Let's get on the stick.  

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