Sparky asks:

When will the Mayor get off of his “no new taxes” and re-evaluate what citizens of this city pay for services?… So, what suggestions do you have other than your “outsource” , “cut” , “eliminate” the services provided citizens of San Diego???

And Sparky’s Right -Sortof wrote:

That’s a good question Erik: at what point would you support a tax increase. Or are we correct that you would always look for and find some inefficiency that would provide at least enough evidence to justify a resounding opposition to any tax increases? Could we get a pledge that says if they cut this, this this and this, you can raise taxes?

And Chris Hall chimes in:

… I believe that many of the services government provides were wisely chosen and to now come in with a far-right ideology that wants to cut out government services is immoral and unwise. AND, when one considers the alternative, which is a TINY bump in taxes to close a 6% gap, there shouldn’t be much of a complaint.

I think these raise three questions about taxes that are worth noting.

1) The voters need to be treated like adults before taxes could even be proposed to them (because having one’s head handed back is not fun)

I believe that hard political choices require building trust with the community. SDI recently did work on polling on this and showed that San Diegans are, on the whole MORE distrustful of government than the rest of the nation. (You can find all our polls at www.sandiegoinstitute.com)

That, to me, suggests there is a lot of “pre-work” to be done with the public. Indeed, on this web site readers often see posts from those who think that the reason for the structural deficits is subsidies to sports teams or shady deals with developers. How in the world, if that is the opinion out there and so often repeated that it is has become a mantra, would the public EVER vote for tax increases? They would right say, “Hey, just take those back give aways and stop reaching for my wallet!” Seems rhetoric has gotten us into a pickle.

Getting our arms around the true state of city finances (and getting the mayor to have more serious public conversations about them) is a critical first step in building trust with the public to get through the hard choices ahead. Again, I may be doom and gloom and things are not nearly this troubling but the only way to know is for the public to get more information in a clearer form out of 202 C St.

2) It is unlikely to be an either/or proposition

I don’t think that is the case. Let’s also remember, the current Five Year Forecast, since it assumes the imposition of the Tourist Marketing District, builds in a bump in TOT that raises an additional $22 to $25 million. Fiscal conservatives would be on pretty strong ground in arguing that with the TMD taxes have been increased. Add in the sewer and water rate increases and one can see that it is a mistake to argue that revenues haven’t been increased. The scary part is that they have been raised and we still face a deficit.

3) Reforms important even if we didn’t have a deficit

Even governments flush with cash need to be prudent and careful with taxpayer dollars and constantly look to use them wisely. In large part that is because it is far better for taxpayers to have those dollars than government. But also it is because, if government can do the same service with fewer resources, it frees up those $$ to be spent on other activities that had to be postponed because of limited $$$.

Finally, Chris adds something that should be addressed. He writes:

And I would like to suggest a worse — far worse — gap to fill is that between the rich and the poor, and the best, time honored way to close that gap is to tax the rich and provide important services to the public they lack.

Those that are inclined to raise taxes should be aware of the fact that most of the taxes in the California local government tool box (sales tax, parcel taxes, property tax revenue bonds, head taxes, gross receipts taxes) are REGRESSIVE. Consider a trash fee. It would be the same (and has to be by state law) for a La Jolla millionaire as a fixed income senior in Mid-City. Different rates for the same service would violate CA constitution. So raising taxes, at least the kind that local CA governments can raise, would fall disproportionately on those the least able to afford the new taxes. Same is true of sales tax, parcel taxes, utility franchise taxes, and most sorts of payroll/gross receipt taxes.

— ERIK BRUVOLD

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