This post first published in the June 24 Politics Report. The weekly newsletter is our insider’s guide to policy and local politics.
This week, a coalition of labor leaders and climate activists launched a new campaign to gather signatures to put a half-cent sales tax increase on the ballot next year to support SANDAG’s transit and road plans. The main leaders seem to be the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, IBEW 569, the laborers, LiUNA 89 and Carpenters 619.
The last effort to do this, you may remember, ended after the Registrar of Voters determined that the campaign had come up short on signatures wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations from mostly labor unions.
But that’s just one measure: We reported in February that San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Councilman Raul Campillo were working on their own half-cent sales tax increase for the city of San Diego. The plan is for the City Council to put it on the ballot as a general tax increase.
As such, it would only need a majority of voters to support, not two-thirds. But the city would also have to refrain from promising exactly where the money would go.
Gloria and Campillo and their allies are still pushing it.
So, yes, there are two separate efforts to put two separate half-cent sales tax increases on the ballot. One for the whole county for transit and one for just the city of San Diego for city of San Diego needs.
There’s an assumption in local politics that if you have multiple tax increases on a ballot, they will confuse and concern voters and cannibalize each other. But even if you don’t accept that assumption, two competing sales tax increases would certainly be a problem for proponents.
“I don’t see a lot of reason for concern in the data that having multiple measures on a ballot is super problematic,” said Michael Zucchet, the general manager of the largest union of city employees, the Municipal Employees’ Association. “However, having two sales tax measures on the ballot is not ideal. I’m hopeful it doesn’t materialize this cycle but there’s not much I can do about it.”
The supporters of the transit measure aren’t concerned at all.
“These are completely separate issues and we’re focused on our measure. It benefits the entire county, including the city of San Diego. We are well on our way to meeting our deadline and it polls pretty well. We’ve received nothing but positive support,” said Gretchen Newsom, the political director for IBEW’s ninth district.
More: We have been following also the Housing Federation’s push for a transaction tax on sales of high-value properties to funnel money into affordable housing projects. They would also like to get this on the ballot. We reported last week that the group has the support of San Diego Council President Sean Elo-Rivera.
A clarification on that. We reported last week that the tax would start on sales of homes at $1.5 million but federation representatives want us to make clear that, while they have polled residents on that threshold, the actual ballot measure will probably put the transaction tax only on sales of properties above $2.5 million.