Legal problems likely would have killed a proposal to link a sales tax increase to a series of cost-cutting reforms made by San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye on Tuesday.

It’s a good thing today is Thursday.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told Mayor Jerry Sanders and City Council members that a sales tax increase couldn’t automatically expire if reform triggers aren’t met, as Frye had proposed earlier this week.

But the newest sales tax-reform package developed by Frye and Councilman Todd Gloria leaves it to a third-party — either a three judge panel or the city auditor — to decide if the city had met reform triggers outlined in the package. The package is structured so that a half-cent sales tax would persist for five years if the city made all the reforms listed, but sunset after two years if reform targets weren’t met.

Goldsmith said his office now is researching if the council could delegate its authority to a third party.

A spokeswoman for the state Board of Equalization, which would be responsible for administering the tax, said a third party would be OK.

“If we have a declaration from the City Council that this is the person who enters into the agreement, and this is the person who ends the agreement, and we’re given the appropriate notice we will follow those instructions,” said board spokeswoman Anita Gore.

Council is scheduled to meet Friday at 10 a.m. to discuss the Frye/Gloria proposal.

And one elephant in the room once the tax measure would reach voters already has been cleared away. Late Thursday, Sanders vetoed the new $294 million City Hall from appearing on the ballot. Another elephant, Sanders himself, still hasn’t decided if he’ll be in the room. The mayor and his staff continued to not answer questions about the reform package.

Earlier Thursday, the Mayor’s Office did deny an assertion from San Diego County Taxpayers Association President and CEO Lani Lutar that he was planning on partnering with Frye on a reform package. Lutar later said either Frye misunderstood a question she had asked or the mayor pulled out of the deal. For her part, Frye said late Thursday that she told Lutar that she and Gloria were releasing a memo, not the mayor.

Meanwhile, Lutar’s organization and a coalition of other Republican and pro-business groups reiterated their opposition to the Frye/Gloria proposal, leaving it unlikely the plan would receive substantial bi-partisan support.


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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