For years, talk of new money in the city of San Diego has focused on fees for storm water and trash collection.

They’ve been popular targets because of the city’s failure to recoup costs for state and federal water pollution mandates and for single-family home trash collection.

But neither fee has caught city politicians’ imaginations recently like increasing the city’s sales tax.

A sales tax increase was the new-money center of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ abandoned reform package. Since then, Council President Ben Hueso has championed a sales tax increase. City Council will consider asking voters in November to bump the tax up a half-cent to 9.25 percent.

A sales tax increase could be preferred for practical reasons. Money from new trash or storm water fees couldn’t enter the city’s coffers until the 2013 budget cycle, according to the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst. That’s not in time to address a 2012 deficit that’s estimated at $73 million and continuing to creep upward. Also, a trash or storm water fee would deliver only about one-third of the $103 million a sales tax increase could bring.

But the real reason city leaders are talking sales tax is political.

The showpiece of a labor-backed presentation on the sales tax at a City Council committee meeting yesterday was a poll conducted last month indicating 59 percent of voters could support a half-cent sales tax increase. (The poll’s margin of error was 4 percent and the full poll wasn’t released.)

After the committee meeting, I asked Hueso why the focus on a sales tax, compared to other forms of new revenue.

“From my understanding it probably had the broadest community support, the highest levels of community support,” Hueso said.

So, because of polling?

“Yes,” he said.

— 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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