Brisbane business tax targets liquid storage companies

Courtesy photoRay Miller

To make up for part of a $2 million budget shortfall, the Brisbane City Council is asking voters in November to approve a business-license tax on liquid-storage facilities that is opposed by a large company in the city.

Measure T would impose on local businesses a tax of up to $115.28 per 1,000 cubic feet of liquid storage capacity. Primarily, the measure targets Kinder Morgan, which owns a large fuel and storage facility supplying the entire north Peninsula and the San Francisco International Airport.

Brisbane Mayor Raymond Miller said he supports the tax increase because when Kinder Morgan moved to the town of 4,000 people, it was supposed to be taxed on fuel and oil sales. But the sales point has been moved to a facility outside the city.

“We don't think they're paying their fair share,” Miller said.

“They're huge. One of the largest independent terminal operators in North America,” Miller added. “They don't want to pay any taxes if they can get away with it.”

Brisbane's budget deficit is partly due to several businesses relocating in search of more favorable tax treatment and a better bottom line.

The shortfall has left the city scrambling to raise funds — an increased hotel tax, regular business tax and recycling fee have already been implemented, according to Miller.

Kinder Morgan opposes the measure because it seeks to “penalize one company,” according to a statement from spokeswoman Emily Mir. The company is willing to pay its fair share, the statement said, but the increase of “400 times” is unreasonable.

Kinder Morgan has spent $70,264.13 on a campaign to persuade Brisbane residents to vote against the new tax, according to documents obtained by The San Francisco Examiner. The expenditures include $50,000 paid to San Francisco's Whitehurst/Mosher, a campaign strategy and media firm.

“[The anti-Measure T campaign] have been doing phone and mail surveys,” Miller said, “but it's really just one of those campaign hit pieces, the way they're asking the questions.”

The campaign consultants don't see it that way.

“We're testing messaging to see if people are responding to it, we're asking residents whether they're in favor or not,” Whitehurst/Mosher spokeswoman Jill Golub said.

The departure of VWR International, which took advantage of a tax break offered by the Southern California city of Visalia, was a big hit to Brisbane's tax revenue. Before the move, VWR had been in the city for 50 years, according to Miller.

Bay Area NewsBrisbane Measure TGovernment & PoliticsKinder MorganPoliticsRaymond Miller

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