San Francisco’s election season is shifting into high gear as early voting is about to begin. With just more than a month remaining until Election Day, we encourage all city voters to be engaged and consider the economic impacts of the June 5 election. The next mayor of San Francisco could lead The City for almost 10 years, making pivotal quality of life decisions on transportation, homelessness and the state of our streets.
Weighing in on the business-related initiatives, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce is working through its political action committee, SF Forward, as well as partner business and civic organizations to actively support and oppose key initiatives impacting the local economy. A few highlights of the Chamber’s positions:
Yes on Regional Measure 3: The Bay Area is drowning in traffic congestion and needs infrastructure improvements to address our issues on a regional level. This measure would raise nearly $4.5 billion for transit projects through a series of gradual toll increases on the region’s state-owned bridges (not including the Golden Gate Bridge). We need to keep the region’s economy strong and transport a booming workforce. RM3 will fund new BART and Muni metro cars, extend Caltrain into the Transbay Terminal in downtown San Francisco and enable freeway improvements.
Yes on Prop H: This initiative authorizes the San Francisco Police Department to train and deploy officers to use Tasers as a non-lethal alternative to firearms. Most big-city police departments equip officers with Conductive Energy Devices, including Tasers. While the Police Commission has approved a Taser policy, it places unreasonable limitations on their use and has yet to implement it.
No on Prop C: This voter initiative adds a huge 3.5 percent surcharge to The City’s commercial rent tax to fund early childhood services, increasing gross receipts tax rates on local businesses of all sizes. It will so significantly raise office rents that some may relocate or move their workforce out of San Francisco.
The Chamber is acutely aware of the mounting tax burdens on our businesses, businesses who are already paying their fair share. In addition to the tax measures on the June ballot, there are potentially four headed for the November ballot. We need to fund priority areas to tackle homelessness and street cleaning, but doing so through one off ballot measures is not effective or strategic.
Business taxes annually generate almost $800 million for The City’s General Fund, a doubling over the last six years. In 2012, voters approved a gradual conversion from the payroll tax to an income based gross receipts tax. The phase-out of the payroll tax is not compete and the voters will be asked in a future election to raise the gross receipts rates to finally end the payroll tax. Now is not the time to layer surcharges on any business, especially on employers whose tax payments have already doubled.
The June election also includes an unusual and unnecessary challenge to four sitting San Francisco judges. Incumbent judges are rarely challenged, but it’s not the challenge but the reason behind it that is most concerning. The incumbent judges, who are all registered Democrats, are being challenged by four public defenders solely because the judges were appointed by Republican governors. These efforts to defeat experienced, respected judges with deep ties to the community based on who appointed them is absurd. Judges are supposed to be above politics, so let’s not politicize the bench.
There’s a lot to consider for June. Check out the Chamber’s complete voting guide at sfchamber.com/blog/2018-june-voting-guide.
Tallia Hart is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.