Supervisor Katy Tang and Jim Lazarus, senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, spoke against Proposition C, a business tax to fund homeless services, at City Hall Tuesday. (Joshua Sabatini/S.F. Examiner)

Tang, Chamber of Commerce blast homeless tax measure at City Hall rally

Outgoing Supervisor Katy Tang joined the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce in a rally outside of City Hall Tuesday against a November ballot measure that would tax the largest businesses to help house homeless residents.

The measure, Proposition C, would impose a tax on businesses with gross receipts in excess of $50 million by an average of a half percent. About 300 businesses would be impacted.

The tax would generate about $300 million annually for homeless services, but the chamber warns it could lead to job losses or cause companies to leave the city.

“Even though it’s legal now, I think they are smoking something if you don’t think those jobs are going to leave San Francisco,” said Jim Lazarus, a leader of the Chamber of Commerce , who was joined by Tang on the steps of City Hall. The chamber is leading the No on C campaign.

The rally was scheduled for Tuesday with the expectation the City Controller’s Office would release the analysis on the measure’s impact on the local economy. But that release date has now been postponed until at least Wednesday morning.

Sam Lew, with the Yes on C campaign and on leave from the Coalition on Homelessness, showed up to observe the rally.

“I think that a lot of what they are saying is that companies are going to be leaving town with this very small on average half percent tax in light of huge cuts on the federal level,” Lew said. “What we’ve seen before when we tried to do things like raise the minimum wage is that these same companies threaten to leave town and that job loss would ensue and that is not what happened. Our economy is still thriving.”

Tang said that the spending boost is not the answer. “I don’t believe that throwing more money into this problem is going to solve anything. We already spend upwards of more than $300 million in San Francisco each year on homelessness and housing services.”

She questioned whether The City was effectively spending funding. “We need to evaluate, for example, whether a new Department of Homelessness is something that has been a wise investment, and that the collaboration between other city departments that our former mayor and our current mayor are asking for are actually leading to changes and improvements of our homeless situation here in San Francisco,” she said.

Lew said that The City is effectively using is existing funding and that it needs more funding to address the decades of cuts of federal funding.

“San Francisco is really going to be a leader in investing in the housing and services that we need,” Lew said. “We know that the money we are spending today on homelessness is being used correctly. We also know that there just isn’t enough money to serve every single homeless person in San Francisco.”

She added, “When we do get people into housing, it saves much more on emergency room costs, on paramedic costs, police costs and gets people into housing in a compassionate way.”

Lazarus said The City needs to focus on a regional and state solution and not try to spend its way out of homelessness on its own.

He also noted that he was joined by small business owners at the rally “who recognize the connection between a healthy downtown business community and local retailers” and that it creates a strong economic “engine that trickles down to every business in San Francisco.”

“We can’t jeopardize that with the passage of Proposition C,” he added.

Lew noted that the San Francisco Labor Council is among those who have endorsed Proposition C.

Mayor London Breed has taken “no position” on Prop. C.

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