Business Groups Still Wary of Ballot Measure

No prominent member of the San Diego business community has endorsed the financial reform ballot measure spearheaded by City Councilwoman Donna Frye.

Too few reforms, they say, and too much tax increase.

A day before the expected final council decision on putting the proposal before voters in November, that fact still hasn’t changed, despite two major developments on Friday applauded by business leaders.

Councilman Tony Young amended the ballot measure to ensure all the proposed reforms come before a tax increase would kick in. Then came the biggie. Mayor Jerry Sanders, long a business supporter, wholeheartedly endorsed the measure, saying it “clears the final obstacles to our reform agenda.”

But the San Diego County Taxpayers Association remains opposed, as does the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a pro-business nonprofit. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation haven’t yet taken a position, but are concerned that the reform measures proposed don’t provide specific cost savings to justify a tax increase.

“I think we would have a hard time supporting the current proposal because the reforms aren’t real, aren’t measurable,” said Scott Maloni, chairman of the downtown partnership.

The Taxpayers Association released a proposal this morning arguing the tax increase shouldn’t be implemented until the city achieves $100 million in savings — the amount a half-cent sales tax hike is expected to raise annually — from planned pension, retiree health care and outsourcing reforms.

Sanders has contacted the EDC’s chairman, Debra Reed, to explain his position, said Andrew Poat, its vice president for policy. Poat called Sanders “a stalwart leader on fiscal responsibility” and said the mayor’s opinion matters.

“When he comes to a position, it’s taken very, very seriously,” Poat said.

Both Poat and Ruben Barrales, the chamber’s president, said their organizations were hoping the city would release dollar figures it expects to save through the reforms before approving the ballot measure.

Poat and Barrales said their organizations hoped to finalize their endorsement before tomorrow’s vote.

Business community backing would give the measure’s supporters greater justification to bestow the “grand compromise” label on the measure, which would help come November, Barrales said.

Though the mayor’s endorsement was likely the most critical to the proposal’s chances, the council’s two Republicans, Kevin Faulconer and Carl DeMaio, have been the top spokesmen against it.

“I just have a real hard time seeing a package being approved by the voters if a significant segment of the business community is against this,” Maloni said.

– LIAM DILLON

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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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