munipiece2.jpgAgency will ask board to consider sales, payroll, four other taxes


Muni has no qualms about the “tax and spend liberal” label: after all, the deficit-burdened transit agency would love to have money to spend. But in order to spend, one must first tax, and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency general manager Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., said Wednesday he may ask the Board of Supervisors to push one of six tax increases that would help the transit agency balance a long-term budget deficit.

The proposed taxes and their projected windfalls are as follows:

— $65 million from an additional .5 percent sales tax (bringing the tax you pay on goods bought in SF to a new high of 10%);
–$33 million from a 2 percent vehicle licensing fee (up from 1.15 percent);
–$55-$60 million from a .25 percent increase in the city’s payroll tax (up from 1.5 percent);
–$29 million from a $200 per-parcel tax on San Francisco’s 144,000 residential and commercial properties;
–$11 million from a 1 percent increase in the hotel tax (bringing it up to 15%);
–$20 million from a 10 percent increase in the “commercial off-street parking tax” (garages), up from 25 percent.

Any one of these would have to wind through the legislative process by August 6 in order to qualify for the November ballot, according to the Department of Elections. It warrants mention that every effort to put a tax increase on the ballot over the last two years has failed, and that revenue measures require a 2/3 super-majority at the polls to become law.

Taxes are tough pills to swallow, but long-term budget solutions will surely be the name of the game this budget season, as the city faces some $1.5 billion in looming budget deficits over the next several years.

The long-term crunch is why the much-publicized $36 million grant from the state won’t stave off either Muni’s May 8 citywide service cuts or the 280 layoffs throughout Muni’s ranks. The service cuts will save an additional $28.8 million, and trims the next deficit to a mere $26 million.

The agency is also considering charging for Sunday parking, but extended meter hours during the week are off the table, Ford reaffirmed. Ford also pledged the agency will not cut any more service or raise fares until 2012, when a slight budget surplus is projected. At that time, Muni could add back service cut this year. But in the meantime, “we feel good about the system [Muni will run after the 10 percent service cuts],” Ford said. “It’s a smaller system… a better system.”

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  • Xenu

    FINALLY! All these service cuts + fare increases were getting out of hand.

  • Xenu

    FINALLY! All these service cuts + fare increases were getting out of hand.

  • John Murphy

    Amusing. I can’t figure how these taxes make more sense than meter extensions, which price a good and is thus nominally “optional”, and which is good for business, which (drumroll please) brings in more sales taxes.

    I can say this… other than the sales tax increase I would get a pretty good deal on this one. My wife and I share one car, we don’t own property in SF, I don’t work in SF, don’t stay in hotels in SF.

    And I have no idea what crack Ford is smoking that predicts a surplus in 2012.

  • John Murphy

    Amusing. I can’t figure how these taxes make more sense than meter extensions, which price a good and is thus nominally “optional”, and which is good for business, which (drumroll please) brings in more sales taxes.

    I can say this… other than the sales tax increase I would get a pretty good deal on this one. My wife and I share one car, we don’t own property in SF, I don’t work in SF, don’t stay in hotels in SF.

    And I have no idea what crack Ford is smoking that predicts a surplus in 2012.

  • Rick

    and 60% of whichever tax increase will go towards funding the screwed-up work rules at SFMTA.

    keep chanting with those fingers in your ears, Mr. Ford.

  • Rick

    and 60% of whichever tax increase will go towards funding the screwed-up work rules at SFMTA.

    keep chanting with those fingers in your ears, Mr. Ford.

  • Akit

    Wow, 10% local sales tax. On the brighter end, at least it will be easier to determine sales tax instead of this “point five” crap.

    Makes Amazon sound more amusing every single day.

  • Akit

    Wow, 10% local sales tax. On the brighter end, at least it will be easier to determine sales tax instead of this “point five” crap.

    Makes Amazon sound more amusing every single day.

  • Alex Zepeda

    Yeah. No fucking way. Before raising more revenue the MTA absolutely needs to address wasteful practices top to bottom. I’m fine with increased revenues going towards maintaining service and improving infrastructure… but what guarantee do we have that jacking up the sales tax will do any of that?

    @AKit Slightly off-topic, but, the timetables are available on sfmta.com in the Google Transit format. Portland’s TriMet has a neat open source webapp that you can use to make timetables from this data (likewise I hacked up a quick one to make some PDFs). Of course, I don’t know if/when this will be updated for the May service gutting. I am also a bit cheesed that the MTA sees fit to pander to Google, but not make this readily available to the general public. As long as they’re dubbing riders “customers” they might as well pull their heads outta their hindquarters a bit to realize that Google, as an entity, does not ride MUNI.

  • Alex Zepeda

    Yeah. No fucking way. Before raising more revenue the MTA absolutely needs to address wasteful practices top to bottom. I’m fine with increased revenues going towards maintaining service and improving infrastructure… but what guarantee do we have that jacking up the sales tax will do any of that?

    @AKit Slightly off-topic, but, the timetables are available on sfmta.com in the Google Transit format. Portland’s TriMet has a neat open source webapp that you can use to make timetables from this data (likewise I hacked up a quick one to make some PDFs). Of course, I don’t know if/when this will be updated for the May service gutting. I am also a bit cheesed that the MTA sees fit to pander to Google, but not make this readily available to the general public. As long as they’re dubbing riders “customers” they might as well pull their heads outta their hindquarters a bit to realize that Google, as an entity, does not ride MUNI.

  • Kevin Montgomery

    TAX CARS MORE (full disclosure: I don’t drive).

    That said, an across the board sales tax only makes the city more difficult to live in (as does a payroll tax) whereas the city’s car culture is already well funded.

  • Kevin Montgomery

    TAX CARS MORE (full disclosure: I don’t drive).

    That said, an across the board sales tax only makes the city more difficult to live in (as does a payroll tax) whereas the city’s car culture is already well funded.

  • Pumpkin Pie

    Wow, we tax haters have something in common with the Tea Party.

  • Pumpkin Pie

    Wow, we tax haters have something in common with the Tea Party.

  • bloomsm

    For those of you who slept through your Economics class in college, typically, raising taxes in a recession (for that is what we are in, regardless of your 401k performance) slows growth and makes matters worse. Slowing growth (for example, jacking tourists for 15% hotel tax plus 10% sales tax) when you need growth, is just stupid. It provides less funding to Muni and creates a cycle of higher taxes, slow growth, and service cuts.

    Having the highest-sales tax among major US cities is not a plus. It hurts the poor worst of all (because they can least afford it); and it hurts business that people could avoid (like, Trader Joe’s in Daly City is the same distance from my house as an SF location). A parcel tax will not pass because the people who are being asked to fund Muni via parcel tax (i.e., property owners) consistently reject such taxes.

    Please review the SFWeekly’s excellent piece by Greg Dewar on the Muni Death Spiral. You can tax fucking fresh air and it won’t help the Muni. An amazing analysis here: http://www.sfweekly.com/2010-04-14/news/the-muni-death-spiral

  • bloomsm

    For those of you who slept through your Economics class in college, typically, raising taxes in a recession (for that is what we are in, regardless of your 401k performance) slows growth and makes matters worse. Slowing growth (for example, jacking tourists for 15% hotel tax plus 10% sales tax) when you need growth, is just stupid. It provides less funding to Muni and creates a cycle of higher taxes, slow growth, and service cuts.

    Having the highest-sales tax among major US cities is not a plus. It hurts the poor worst of all (because they can least afford it); and it hurts business that people could avoid (like, Trader Joe’s in Daly City is the same distance from my house as an SF location). A parcel tax will not pass because the people who are being asked to fund Muni via parcel tax (i.e., property owners) consistently reject such taxes.

    Please review the SFWeekly’s excellent piece by Greg Dewar on the Muni Death Spiral. You can tax fucking fresh air and it won’t help the Muni. An amazing analysis here: http://www.sfweekly.com/2010-04-14/news/the-muni-death-spiral