When you look at the November ballot, you will see several proposed tax increases – 17 local tax proposals throughout the county. Some are worth voting for because they are sound, smart proposals that will raise much-needed revenue for important services, including schools and infrastructure. Others, however, are risky proposals that would threaten funding for public safety, street repairs and other important services, and would leave you and your children on the hook for decades.
One of the responsible, balanced proposals is Measure A – the San Diego County Road Repair, Transit, Traffic Relief, Safety and Water Quality Measure. It would increase the sales tax in the county by one half-cent to raise nearly $18 billion over 40 years. The San Diego Association of Governments proposed the measure as an expenditure plan for the development of the region’s transit systems, highways, roads and other transportation and conservation projects.
SANDAG is an established organization with demonstrated ability to follow through on its promises to voters and use best practices in construction, management, evaluation and oversight. It has power to match local revenue with other funding sources at a three to one ratio, capitalizing on taxpayer dollars to maximize public benefit.
Measure A’s $18 billion in local revenue could help us obtain competitive state and federal dollars for regional investments in transportation infrastructure. There would be independent oversight, and this oversight facilitates transparency and accountability.
On the other end of the spectrum is Measure C, which would require more than $1 billion in new taxes for a new rent-free stadium for the Chargers and a convention center annex that Comic-Con is telling us not to build. The Chargers and the NFL would be responsible for $650 million of the construction costs, and the city of San Diego would be required to fund the rest through a 6 percent increase in the city’s hotel-room tax.
It is unlikely the hotel tax increase would raise enough revenue to cover the cost of building a new convadium even if the Chargers’ optimistic assumptions about increased hotel nights and convention center revenue come to fruition. Add on the interest to the bonds issued by the city and the continued debt payments for a vacant Qualcomm stadium, and you, as a citizen of San Diego, are taking on more than $2 billion in debt for a single project developed for and by the Chargers.
If revenues were to fall short, the city, in order to protect its credit rating, would need to pay back investors with money from the general fund, putting critical services and infrastructure repairs at risk.
Measure C was not developed transparently, nor was it developed collaboratively with San Diegans. In fact, when the Taxpayers Association invited the Chargers to discuss their proposal, the team required us to commit to a “no position” – silence – for them to present their proposal to us. Their demand to exchange silence for information isn’t good for a healthy democratic society. Contrast that with Measure A, which was developed by a public agency, overseen by public representatives, with the interest of the public in mind and in the spirit of collaboration and deliberation that makes San Diego a community.
San Diegans should vote no on Measure C.
San Diegans should also vote no on Measure D, which would increase San Diego’s hotel-room tax by up to 5 percent. This money, according to the measure, could be used to fund a new convention center annex downtown, but could not be used to fund a new stadium. The measure allows the Qualcomm Stadium site to be redeveloped for other uses if the Chargers relocate.
Measure D severely limits the ability of lawmakers to make important land-use decisions in the future without taking them to a vote, which could impede progress and cause unnecessary inefficiencies and expenses.
Even more, it’s highly likely that Measure D would face legal challenges should it pass. The city attorney has said it may violate California’s single-subject rule, which says ballot initiatives may only deal with one main issue. In addition to raising the hotel tax and clearing the way for a downtown stadium and convention center annex, Measure D bans an on-site expansion of the existing convention center, limits the future use of Qualcomm Stadium, and more. If someone were to challenge the measure, taxpayers would have to cover the costs of the city’s legal defense.
All in all, Measure A provides transparency and valuable community assets, while Measure C and Measure D do not do enough to protect revenues the city relies on to ensure you and your children receive the public services you pay for.
When you’re casting your ballot on Election Day, please make sure you are voting for measures that invest your tax dollars wisely and opposing measures that cost too much, carry too much risk and benefit a special interest.
Haney Hong is president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Megan Couch is a policy analyst with the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Their commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.