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The plan promoted by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and the majority of City Council members to solve the city’s ongoing budget deficits is Proposition D, a sales tax increase and financial reform ballot measure.
But no matter who wins the race for Councilwoman Donna Frye’s seat on the City Council this November, Frye — the chief architect of Prop. D — will be replaced by an opponent to the measure. Both candidates vying for her District 6 seat oppose it.
In Council President Ben Hueso’s District 8, both potential replacements say they support for Prop. D, just as Hueso has.
Here’s what the candidates think about Prop. D and how they’d handle the city’s budget problems.
District 6: Howard Wayne, Democrat: Opposes Prop. D.
The former state assemblyman says the city should instead cut services, accepting that police and fire departments will be included.
“It’s not going to be fun and it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “It’s going to be a very tough budget and it’s going to be tough times.”
Wayne says Prop. D’s sales tax is regressive, hitting the poor hardest and putting San Diego businesses at a disadvantage.
“With unemployment as high as it is, with people struggling to put food on the table, with business struggling to meet payroll, I think it’s the wrong time to increase the sales tax,” he said.
He believes the city can raise revenue without increasing taxes.
Two of his ideas include imposing false-alarm fees for fire services, which could potentially bring in $3 million per year, and collecting criminal asset forfeiture funds — or money from crimes — estimated to average $1.98 million, according to estimates by the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst.
With the city facing an immediate deficit of more than $70 million next year, Wayne admits that these are just a small piece of the equation. But he said but both are potential sources of revenue he believes can bring back public service offices in the short term.
District 6: Lorie Zapf, Republican: Opposes Prop. D.
Zapf calls the measure a bailout for the city’s “out of control spending.” Zapf said she’s skeptical the reforms it promises will actually be enforced.
“The kinds of reform in Prop. D will not have an impact,” she said. “Reform is dollar savings, quantitative measures — not completing some bureaucratic manual. It should be results before taxes, not reform.”
Zapf doesn’t believe the city will have to cut services to meet the budget shortfall. Instead, enforcing “real” competitive bidding for city services, known as managed competition, will bring in immediate savings, she said, though she did not know how much.
“By enforcing managed competition, we can restore a lot services,” Zapf said. “I would like to sit down with other council members and get real serious. The strategies are out there and we know what needs to get done, but it’s just gathering dust.”
District 8: David Alvarez, Democrat: Supports Prop. D.
Alvarez, a community representative for state Sen. Denise Ducheny, said he supports the measure because he doesn’t want to cut city services. He said he’s disappointed the city has to increase taxes, but believes it’s necessary.
“Given the lack of revenue the city has, we would have to make cuts to much needed services,” although it’s not a long-term solution and will only patch up the budget for five years,” Alvarez said.
When asked how he will ensure the reforms happen, he said not implementing them would be “deceiving voters” and something he will not do.
“The reality is you’re going to have to hope and put trust in elected leaders that it gets accomplished,” he said. “Residents must vote for a candidate that will do the people’s will and that’s why this election is so important.”
District 8: Felipe Hueso, Democrat: Supports Prop. D.
Hueso said he supports the measure because “there are no other solutions.” To ensure the reforms are implemented, Hueso says voters can hold him accountable.
“It’s the responsibility of policy-makers to ensure the reforms get done,” he said. “I will address the deficit by following the 10 points of the reform plan.”
In addition to Prop. D, Hueso said the city should also raise the hotel tax, pointing out that it is one of the lowest in the country.
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