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I just received a statement from City Council President Ben Hueso’s office on his sales tax proposal that will be discussed at Wednesday’s Rules Committee. I’ve copied the full statement below, but an interesting detail pops out about his approach.
Hueso said he’s proposing to raise the sales tax a half-cent for the next five years to protect public safety services from further budget cuts. He said Mayor Jerry Sanders’ trial balloon for developing a comprehensive financial reform plan wasn’t vetted fully before Sanders killed one of its centerpieces — a sales tax increase — last week.
Last week, I wrote that two schools of thoughts were crystallizing for fixing the city’s persistent budget deficits. The “grand compromise” camp believes the city needs to package cost cutting reforms with new revenues at the same time. The “reform before revenue” camp argues that cost cuts must come before the city asks for new money.
Hueso proposes a third option. Let’s call it “revenue before reform.” He argues the city’s budget picture is so dire that the city needs a temporary infusion of new money so it can make reforms without destroying city services.
“The potential $100 million annual increase to the General Fund would preserve essential services while the City continues to implement fiscal reforms,” Hueso’s statement said.
Here’s the full statement from Hueso’s office:
Our City’s most recent Five Year Financial Outlook projects a $72 million deficit for FY2012, and nearly $70 million for the two years thereafter. To address this shortfall, the Mayor began to craft a comprehensive plan that included both efficiencies and potential revenue generation.
Unfortunately, the part of the plan that addressed revenue was tried in the media and withdrawn before being fully vetted, leaving a gaping budget deficit and no clear way to balance the books.
Public safety officers remain deeply concerned about the budget deficit and its impact on their ability to protect residents from harm. Residents who value our quality of life may also recognize the need to generate income while increasing efficiencies.
To ensure the idea is properly vetted and public safety’s voice is heard, Council President Hueso has decided to docket, at the committee level, discussion of a ballot measure that would temporarily apply a half-cent sales tax increase for five years. The potential $100 million annual increase to the General Fund would preserve essential services while the City continues to implement fiscal reforms.
Plan to attend the Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. for the discussion.
— LIAM DILLON