How do we know that the city of San Diego’s proposed sales tax increase will end like it’s supposed to?

That’s one of the questions I keep getting asked in anticipation of our debate on Proposition D next week.

I can answer this one now. The half-cent sales tax increase, which would go into effect after a series of 10 fiscal reforms are met, must end after five years or no later than Dec. 31, 2017, whichever comes first. It’s written into the ballot language, and no (insert derogatory adjective here) city politician can change that.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told me he gets asked the same question frequently. He said it’s “guaranteed” that the tax will end.

“It cannot go on for more than five years,” Goldsmith said.

The only way, he said, the tax could continue is through another public vote.

For the wonkiest among us, here’s the actual ballot language that guarantees the tax will sunset:

The authority to levy the tax imposed by this ordinance shall expire five years after the operative date of this ordinance, or December 31, 2017, whichever is earlier. If the Council determines that the levy and collection of the tax is no longer necessary for the purposes for which the tax is imposed, the Council may suspend or terminate the imposition of the tax prior to that date.

Please contact Liam Dillon directly at or 619.550.5663 and follow him on Twitter:

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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