SF lawmaker wants city tax for Uber, Lyft for Nov. ballot

Supervisor Aaron Peskin thinks Uber and Lyft should pay city taxes to address San Francisco’s “growing needs,” and plans to place an initiative on November’s ballot to do just that.

The measure, which Peskin announced Tuesday morning, could potentially generate “millions of dollars” annually for The City, Peskin’s office told the San Francisco Examiner.

If approved by voters, the measure would task San Francisco with assessing taxes for Transportation Network Companies, as Uber and Lyft are legally designated in California.

“While we wait for the State to find the courage to start regulating this massive economy, there are things that we can be doing to impose some equity at the local level,” Peskin said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

“San Francisco is now in a situation where we are catching up to the common sense tax structures that many states and localities have already imposed, as the economy adjusts to changes in behavior as a result of the gig-economy sector and state and local treasuries suffer.”

While Peskin said he’ll introduce the ballot measure at next Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors regular meeting, he still has some time — the deadline for the Board of Supervisors to introduce proposed ordinances for the Nov. ballot is June 19.

He also hasn’t released drafts of the measure, nor indicated what sort of tax it would be. Peskin’s office declined to reveal that information Tuesday due to ongoing discussions with the City Attorney’s Office.

“We’ll have to see what he’s going to suggest,” said Jim Lazarus, vice president of public policy at the SF Chamber of Commerce.

But, Lazarus added, Uber already pays gross receipts tax on income generated in San Francisco. He’s worried the tax proposal on Uber and Lyft isn’t being made in concert with other tax measures already discussed by other officials.

Late last year a group called the Transportation Task Force 2045, comprised of neighborhood groups, businesses entities, advocates and other stakeholders, mulled a ballot measure to impose a 20-cent-to $1 Fee for Uber and Lyft rides in San Francisco to fund public transportation.

City officials view such fees as a possible deterrent to traffic congestion they say is worsened by the growth of Uber and Lyft. But regulation and fees imposed on the ride-hail giants are largely in the hands of the California Public Utilities Commission, with California cities seeing few options to regulate traffic on their streets.

Other cities and states have already moved forward on charging per-trip fees to Uber and Lyft.

Massachusetts has opted to charge such a fee, according to a report by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, and Philadelphia charges Uber and Lyft 1.4 percent of gross fares to fund the School District of Philadelphia.

Seattle and Chicago each charge per-trip fees to fund wheelchair accessible rides, which Uber and Lyft do not widely provide.

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
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Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

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