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About that sales-tax increase…

July 12, 2010 - 7:47 pm

Would a proposed sales-tax increase in the city of San Diego have been a total ballot-box flop? At a press conference today, City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer said he believed it would. “If we went to the voters today and asked them to send money to city hall, the resounding answer would be ‘no,'” he said.

But a poll (pdf) obtained last week by CityBeat suggested that if a sales-tax increase had been framed the right way, it might have had a chance.

According to the poll, for which research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates contacted 600 registered San Diego voters June 11 through 15:

* 56 percent of respondents said they’d “definitely” or “probably” support a 1/2 cent sales-tax increase that would expire after seven years

* 57 percent said they’d “definitely” or “probably” support a 1/4 cent sales-tax increase that would expire after seven years.

* Half of respondents said they’d be “much more” and “somewhat more” likely to support a 1/2 cent increase that would expire after five years

* 59 percent said they’d be “much more likely” (34 percent) and “somewhat more likely” (25 percent) to support a 1/2 cent sales-tax increase that would expire after three years

Any tax increase would need to get the support of two-thirds of voters to pass. So, based on the polling results alone, the measure wouldn’t pass. (It’s curious why respondents weren’t asked how they felt about a 1/4-cent increase that expired after three years.) Update: A general-purpose sales-tax increase only requires a majority of voter support.

Before asking to whether they’d support a sales-tax increase, respondents were told that the money would go to:

…offset severe state cuts, stabilize City finances, and protect and restore essential City services including: police and firefighter positions and 9-1-1 emergency services; wildfire prevention; pothole repairs; library services; youth and senior programs; beach cleanup and other general City services…

They were also told that the increase would come with “annual audits, citizens’ oversight and no money going to Sacramento.”

Of course, we have no idea what a proposed sales-tax increase might have looked like—because there was never a concrete proposal made public. There were rumors Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office was gauging support, but a coalition of usual-suspect tax-increase opponents launched a peremptory campaign that included today’s press conference. This afternoon, Darren Pudgil, the mayor’s chief spokesperson, released this:

Increasing revenues has been discussed for months by the City Council’s Revenue Review and Economic Competitiveness Committee, and many San Diegans have urged the mayor to consider supporting a ballot measure to increase the sales tax as a way to enhance city services. After carefully considering the idea, the mayor has concluded that this is not the proper time.  He will continue to focus on reforming city government and cutting costs wherever possible, while ensuring the highest level of city services during this economic downturn.

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