Like other California cities, San Francisco is about to get hit by massive cuts at the state level. The current California budget proposal does not include the cuts that will be necessary without revenue measures. The potential for an “all-cuts budget,” to be released around May 14 by Gov. Jerry Brown, will have immediate implications. For example, San Francisco State, which is losing $32 million in the current version of the budget, stands to lose up to $70 million dollars in the all-cuts budget. This city’s primary education, health and transportation sectors stand to be equally devastated. Whether the state can extend certain tax measures to stave off the “all cuts budget” is critical to our fair city.
“No taxes without voter approval,” Brown said in a campaign advertisement last October. In his State of the State address on Jan. 31, he reiterated his plan to let voters decide whether to extend certain taxes, saying, “When the elected officials find themselves bogged down by deep differences which divide them, the only way forward is to go back to the people and seek their guidance. It’s time for a legislative check-in with the people of California.”
Southerners love loaded compliments, so I appreciate Brown’s backhanded digs at the Legislature, but sources tell me that Sacramento’s bog-people are busy trying to pass a budget that contains the tax extensions Brown wants to put on the ballot.
Right now, Brown is traveling the state on his own “Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option” tour, trying to scare Republican constituencies with the prospect of an all-cuts budget. His aim is to get people to pressure their Republican representatives to agree to hold a special election to vote on tax extensions; calling a special election requires a two-thirds majority.
You know what else requires a two-thirds majority? Passing a budget that contains those extensions outright. Only two Republicans in the Assembly and two in the Senate need to cross the aisle to achieve the two-thirds required for the taxes.
But why would legislators be more inclined to vote directly for taxes than an election?
Because a number of Republican districts are home to constituencies such as small businesses that would be devastated in the case of a government shutdown or an all-cuts budget, and now the threat of the tax extensions losing at the ballot box is very real. (Remember Schwarzenegger’s ill-fated special election attempt?)
There are three current taxes that Brown wants to put to the voters: a vehicle license fee, a sales tax and an income tax. The income tax provision expired in December of last year. The vehicle fee and sales tax will expire on June 30. Thus, in a September or November election, no one can sheepishly claim that these are merely “extensions” of taxes — these will officially be detestable “new” taxes.
The crossover Republicans would probably ask for some pension reforms or spending cap, but with business groups such as the Bay Area Council and the leader of the California Chamber of Commerce providing cover for moderate Republicans by endorsing a budget that includes the tax extensions, getting a two-thirds vote on the taxes may be more probable than Brown’s special election.
Perhaps it is Brown who needs a check-in with the people’s representatives.
Supervisors can’t escape angry words
Each week, messages from far and wide are sent to our right honorable supervisors and compiled for the supes’ reading enjoyment (and ours). Here are snippets from this week’s Board of Supervisors’ mailbag.
- Our public employees continue to inspire hateful haikus, like this one, with the subject line, “No Smoking Compliance at Transit Stops” that reads: “Police just drive by eating donuts and ogling women while passengers choke on smoke.”
- Or this one, with the subject line “Muni Union thugs/drivers,” that says, “Drivers don’t stop at stops, lower steps, late/ahead of schedule, at $26 per your [pay]. Ronald Reagan had the guts to stop Unions crime against treasury and citizens.”
- An attorney wrote a letter regarding “Incompetent Management” complaining that traffic was backed up on a Sunday at 5 p.m. from the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza all the way to Mill Valley because a toll booth was closed. “It is obscene that your overpaid, over-benefitted, underworked, incompetent fools cannot keep all lanes open during peak periods.”
- The debate continues to rage over whether to allow Yellow Pages delivery to only those people who need kindling for their fireplaces. No fewer than 14 messages were sent to the board this week in defense of the books, with several pointing out that “not everyone has access to a computer and not everyone has Internet.” All were sent via email.
Boston sweet on SF anti-soda measure
Just one day after reaching an agreement with the Boston Red Sox to allow the sale of mixed drinks at Fenway Park (“Can I get a screwdrivah?”) Boston Mayor Tom Menino announced a ban on the sale of sugary drinks on city property.
San Francisco’s own ban went into effect in April 2010. Both orders were in response to evidence that sweetened drinks make people obese and drive up health care costs.
And while the folks at our City Hall don’t appear to be markedly more svelte, so long as self-righteousness is sugar-free, look for more cities to drink the anti-soda Kool-Aid. But only with vodka at the ballpark.