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San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said two months of talks with organized labor and business leaders showed a sales tax increase was a deal breaker in discussions over a comprehensive financial reform package.

Sanders said information technology outsourcing, landfill privatization, retirement cost reforms and a sales tax increase all were on the table before discussions fell apart.

“Obviously it isn’t the best time to raise the sales tax and that’s where we finally came to,” Sanders said following a press conference Friday in Point Loma. “There just wasn’t, with the economic conditions and then also with all the talks, we just couldn’t get to where we needed to be.”

Sanders abandoned sales tax discussions on Monday following intense opposition from typical allies. But Sanders never spoke about a potential sales tax increase in the two weeks after word leaked that it might be part of a reform package, and detractors to pilloried the proposal.

I asked the mayor if he thought a tax increase or reform package could have garnered more support if he had talked about it publicly. Here’s his response:

We have a lot of talks behind the scenes. I think that’s important to gauge the interest of everybody and also to try to achieve the breakthroughs you need to get something like that done. I think the public wants to see reform. I think if they see reform they’re also willing to invest in the city. You don’t do that out in the public because sometimes you need to have those conversations to see where people are and what they’re willing to do.

Talks regarding a reform package came along with conversations brokered by Sanders’ office on numerous hot button issues, the mayor said. The discussions touched on Councilman Carl DeMaio’s now-failed outsourcing initiative, controversial hiring rules known as project labor agreements and the city’s large planned civic projects. The goal, Sanders said, was to avoid “a war” between labor and the contracting industry.

“I think it’s easier to fight a war than it is to actually sit down and talk,” he said.

I also asked the mayor if he thought efforts at a financial reform package were dead. He said no, but he didn’t see any resolution soon.

“Right now it doesn’t look like it’s going to be going anywhere but we’ll continue those conversations,” Sanders replied.

— LIAM DILLON

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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