Remember when the news cycle contained something other than dire budget forecasts and debate over budget cuts? Faithful readers may recall a slight-ado over a summertime special election at which San Francisco voters would have been able to vote to raise their own taxes. It was an idea floated by San Francisco’s progressive supervisors, and an idea quashed by opposition from Mayor Gavin Newsom and his moderate allies on the board, who also successfully opposed any move to put tax measures on the fall regular ballot.

Raising money is the only alternative to cutting back on services on programs in such a budget crisis, so why did the Mayor oppose efforts to raise taxes — or at least give SF voters the option to raise taxes? Tax measures polled poorly, only hurt poor people, and wouldn’t have passed anyway, Newsom has said in the past, and he reiterated this stance as recently as last week.

However, pollsters on Monday said they have different data — a random cross-section of 600 San Francisco voters were contacted by telephone by pollster David Metz’s firm, and a clear majority said they would support tax measures at the polls.

“There was broad support for a general purpose tax increase,” Metz said on Monday.

Here’s a more specific breakdown:

— 72 percent of poll respondents said they would support a fee of five cents per alcoholic beverage;

— 60 percent supported a half-cent sales tax increase;

— 58 percent supported a hike in the hotel/motel tax;

— and 53 percent supported a temporary two percent increase in the motor vehicle tax.

This might get some heads banging against walls, particularly if the head is attached to a body recently laid-off for lack of funds. Of course, tax measures need two-thirds of voters’ approval to pass, and who knows what would have actually happened at the polls?

Well, in 28 other California cities, tax measures passed, in cities “nowhere near as progressive or as tax-friendly as San Francisco,” according to John Whitehurst, a political consultant and strategist with Whitehurst/Mosher Campaign Strategy and Media.

And if Whitehurst thinks some of these would have passed here in San Francisco, he ought to know — his firm was retained by both the school district and San Francisco General Hospital for their successfully-passed revenue measures.

All tolled, 43 California cities presented tax increases to their voters, and in 28 of those cities, the voters approved the tax hikes — some temporary, some small, but in all cases providing SOME desperately-needed added revenue to their communities.

So did San Francisco miss an opportunity, and will folks now lose their jobs because of it? The above politicos think so. The Appeal e-mailed Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office to get his take, but have not heard back yet.

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  • bloomsm

    It is poor fiscal policy to ask people to voluntarily tax themselves further, during a recession, in a city with a $6 billion budget (07-08), which spends three times more per capita on social services (per the SF Controller) than other comparable cities in the state. When prices rise and taxes increase simultaneously (which is occurring in our economy) it tends to have a negative affect on growth, which exacerbates the yo-yo affect of falling revenue, budget cuts, and tax increases. There is a reason economics is referred to as the “dismal science.”

  • bloomsm

    It is poor fiscal policy to ask people to voluntarily tax themselves further, during a recession, in a city with a $6 billion budget (07-08), which spends three times more per capita on social services (per the SF Controller) than other comparable cities in the state. When prices rise and taxes increase simultaneously (which is occurring in our economy) it tends to have a negative affect on growth, which exacerbates the yo-yo affect of falling revenue, budget cuts, and tax increases. There is a reason economics is referred to as the “dismal science.”

  • Pat

    Let’s look at these proposals:

    Alcohol fee would require a nexus study which is on-going and can only be equal to costs to the City of alcohol. This study was not completed for November.

    Vehicle license fee would require state legislation.

    And perhaps we did not put additional taxes on hotel stays because it might scare away tourists and adversely impact the City’s visitor based economy. Also the City already has the highest hotel occupancy tax on the west coast and is second only to NYC.

    So no we could not have had these revenue sources…

  • Pat

    Let’s look at these proposals:

    Alcohol fee would require a nexus study which is on-going and can only be equal to costs to the City of alcohol. This study was not completed for November.

    Vehicle license fee would require state legislation.

    And perhaps we did not put additional taxes on hotel stays because it might scare away tourists and adversely impact the City’s visitor based economy. Also the City already has the highest hotel occupancy tax on the west coast and is second only to NYC.

    So no we could not have had these revenue sources…