Mayor Ed Lee skeptical of job tax-break proposal for ex-cons

Mayor Ed Lee has signaled his opposition to a proposal to offer tax breaks to businesses hiring ex-felons.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the sheriff-elect, introduced legislation that would offer a $10,000 tax break per ex-felon hired by a business as a way to prevent crime, but the proposal has generated opposition from those who say many people are struggling to obtain jobs and ex-felons should not be the priority.

Lee “remains skeptical and believes the legislation is not comprehensive enough,” said mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on the legislation Tuesday. For Lee, this legislation could be his second veto. The legislation would need six votes to pass, but eight votes to override a veto.

It was approved by the board’s Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday in a 2-1 vote.

Mirkarimi’s proposal was supported on the committee by Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods. “I know in District 6 there are many ex-offenders that have challenges to employment, and I think that it’s important for us to offer an incentive to employers,” Kim said.

But Supervisor Carmen Chu, chairwoman of the committee and a more moderate member on the board, shared Lee’s opinion on the legislation. Chu, who voted against the tax break proposal Wednesday, said she could be open to “an exemption for all San Franciscans for new jobs created,” but she didn’t “feel comfortable prioritizing any population over another.”

Responding to the mayor’s criticism, Mirkarimi said, “What are we going to do with this large and increasingly growing population of ex-offenders who can’t get access to employment? I’m not hearing any other solutions and doing nothing isn’t acceptable either.” He said the ex-offender population has an unemployment rate of more than 50 percent.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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