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Supe. Peskin predicts death of the sales tax

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San Francisco District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. (Dan Chambers/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the last one before next week’s election, Supervisor Aaron Peskin predicted the defeat of a sales tax assumed in Mayor Ed Lee’s city budget, offering some last-minute election drama.

Peskin was the only supervisor who voted against the budget earlier this year, citing objections to balancing the budget by assuming revenues The City had yet to receive. He also voted against placing the sales tax, Proposition K, on the ballot in the first place.

In 2017, San Francisco’s sales tax would decrease from the current rate of 8.75 percent to 8.5 percent, but if Prop. K passes it would increase by .75 percent, to a total of 9.25 percent.

With 25 local measures, supporters of multiple measures have talked about the challenge of reaching voters and getting them to vote down ballot.

“Many of those items are conflicting with one another,” Peskin said during Tuesday’s board meeting. “I want to say as the only member of this body who voted against the budget on the theory that it was being predicated on a tax that would have to pass next week, which is polling terribly, we’ve got to get this right the next time we go to the ballot.”

Peskin later told the San Francisco Examiner he saw a recent poll, but couldn’t recall specifics. His legislative aide subsequently showed the Examiner a photo of what appeared to be an online poll, showing more than 50 percent of voters opposing the measure. Prop. K needs at least 50 percent of the votes to pass.

“We cannot go forward with 25 propositions that compete against each other, and that’s in large part why that $150 million tax is unlikely to pass next week,” Peskin said.

Proposition J is a separate measure that dedicates Prop. K’s revenue to homeless and Muni services. Of the total annual tax revenue, $100 million would go toward Muni and $50 million toward homeless services.

Mayor Ed Lee’s spokesperson Deirdre Hussey took a more optimistic tone. “We all know that Supervisor Peskin opposes Prop. K and that he has worked against it but voters still get to decide. We are going to wait for voters to weigh and we will act accordingly,” Hussey said. “As always, we will work for the will of the voters.”

Peskin attributes the lack of support for the sales tax to the more than $20 million campaign being waged by the soda industry to defeat the soda tax, which he says voters are conflating with the sales tax measure.

He also suggested that the mixed “love-hate” message related to homeless residents doesn’t work to generate support. That message is a result of Supervisor Mark Farrell’s Proposition Q, which bans homeless tent encampments on city sidewalks and authorizes The City to remove them with a 24 hour notice after offering shelter, which could be a temporary shelter bed.

Some of the mayor’s critics say he has not campaigned hard enough for the sales tax, instead focusing too much on defeating the four progressive measures that would reduce the mayor’s power.

Propositions D, H, L and M would, respectively, strip the mayor’s board appointment power, create the position of a public advocate, allow the board to appoint some members of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Commission instead of just the mayor, and create a housing commission, which would oversee the Mayor’s Office of Housing.

Tony Winnicker, a top advisor for the mayor, is on leave to run campaigns against the four progressive measures and would not comment Tuesday on the mayor’s efforts to pass the sales tax measure, although Hussey referred campaign related questions to Winnicker when asked if the mayor was actively campaigning for the sales tax measure.

The City’s new head of the homeless department also declined to comment. “I can’t comment on ballot measures when I’m at work,” Jeff Kositsky, director of The City’s new department of homelessness, told the San Francisco Examiner in a text message. Kositsky supports Prop. K.

As the San Francisco Examiner previously reported, Peskin submitted a paid ballot argument against the sales tax hike, arguing it is “balancing our budget on the backs of the poorest and most vulnerable in our city” and that within The City’s existing $9.6 billion budget, “City Hall should address critical issues.”

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