Who will push progressive taxes in 2012?


Mayor Ed Lee talked to the Examiner about his plans for the next year, and it's a lot of the usual political crap: I'm going to create jobs, I'm going to bring people together and promote civility, ho hum. But he did mention, briefly, the need to change the city's business tax, and here's how he put it:

We have given ourselves four months to reach out to all the business groups. There will be different views and opinions. You can have a hybrid [between a payroll and gross receipts tax], and you can also have a phase-in period of time. We want to have a good conversation with everybody and get their best ideas, and then use those ideas to craft what we think could be on the ballot. We’re not saying it has to be on the November ballot, but it could be. We want to have something that is not job punishing, but also something that does not decrease our revenue.

First: He's going to reach out to all the business groups -- but what about everyone else in the city? The level of business taxes has a direct impact on city services; is that not part of the equation? Clearly, he's talking about something that's at best revenue-neutral, something that "does not decrease our revenue."

And please, don't tell me about "job punishing" -- it makes me even crazier than I already am. Look: There has to be a business tax in San Francisco. And any time you tax businesses, you take money for the city that could be used for other things. In some cases -- not that many -- the extra money might be used to hire a few people. In reality, for most businesses, the payroll tax is absolutely NOT a factor in job creation. It sounds bad -- Gasp! a tax on jobs! -- but the truth is that payroll is a rough approximation for the size of a company, and that's what the city uses as a tax base.

Of course, we could change that to a gross receipts tax -- another rough approximation for the size of a company. It's also imperfect -- some companies have a lot of money (VC funding, for example) and a lot of employees, but at this point not much in the way of sales. Some companies (supermarkets, for example) have high gross receipts but relatively low profit margins. And, of course, if you do a gross receipts tax the same people who complain about the payroll tax will have a new line: The GR tax penalizes growth! It penalizes success! The more money you make the more you pay! Unfair! Un-American! Job killer!

Because some people in this town (mostly big business types) just want lower taxes, period -- not different taxes, lower taxes

So let's get rid of the "job killer" rhetoric and start talking about what the city's tax policy should be. And it should go like this: The individuals and businesses with the most money should pay the highest tax rates. The rich don't pay their fare share anywhere in the U.S., and while the mayor and the supervisors can't change federal policy, they can do their part on a modest level at home.

This a great year for tax reform in San Francisco. The spirit of Occupy is very much alive. There is, for the first time in decades, a national discussion about income and wealth inequality. There's strong evidence that the middle class is vanishing in San Francisco. And, thanks to the wierdness of state law, in 2012, when there's an election for the Board of Supervisors, a tax measure can pass with a simple majority vote In many ways, this is the single most important policy issue in the city, the one that defines who pays for what and who gets what and whether (public sector) jobs are created or destroyed and what kind of a city we want to be.

So let's take it seriously. Instead of allowing Mayor Lee and the (big) business folks set the agenda, the progressives really need to move forward on a tax-reform plan that looks at making big business pay more and small business pay less -- and that brings in another $250 million a year for the local coffers If gross receipts is the flavor of the day, I'm good with that -- but not a flat tax. Exempt, say, the first $250,000 (or the first $500,000, whatever, run the numbers and see what we can afford). Put a 1 percent tax on the next million, a 1.5 percent tax on all receipts between $1.5 million and $5 million, a 2 percent tax on $5 million to $10 million and 3 percent on everything higher. Adjust the numbers either way, but that's the general idea. Then add in a tax on commercial rents (again, exempt the first $500,000 or whatever) to make sure the the big landlords (who get away with murder under Prop. 13) are paying, too. And yes, based on market supply and demand, some will try to pass that on to their tenants, but companies (including a lot of law firms) that rent enough space to be paying millions of dollars a year in rent can afford to modest tax hike.

It will take the city controller or the city's economist to do the math and see what the options are and how you get to $250 million net new revenue, so my proposal is just a start. But somebody needs to take this on, some member of the Board of Supervisors -- or else we'll just be responding to what the Chamber of Commerce wants. Who wants to be the champion of Tax Reform for the 99 Percent? Time is getting short.


ED LEE 59663 30.72%
JOHN AVALOS 37395 19.25%

Posted by matlock on Jan. 06, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

It's just the traditional 'we'll study it, we'll ask the tough questions, we'll crunch some numbers, and then maybe, we'll think, about doing something, or not..., but we'll only do something, if by some odd miracle people are still paying attention, after we get done with our charade of doing all of this can kicking...'.

In his statement Lee purposely didn't commit to do jack, because his puppet masters don't intend allow any tax increases.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jan. 06, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

80% of them rejected the Avalos "borrow, tax and spend our way into socialistic mediocrity" strategy.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 1:03 am

Your assertion doesn't jive with reality.

Over the past few years, including last November, voters have approved several revenue and bond measures, at east one of which was drafted and promoted specifically by Supervisor Avalos.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

ED LEE 59663 30.72%
JOHN AVALOS 37395 19.25%

There is no real reason that Lee should use progressive dreaming as a model for government.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

You all clearly prefer to race to the bottom through supply side voodoo economics to the glorious world of libertarian capitalist dystopia.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

And anyway, polls can be manipulated by how the questions are phrased. I suspect far less would vote for a real tax hike if it affects them directly.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

this was a legitimate poll for a mild tax hike measure, which is backed up by national polls that show similar voter willingness to support higher taxes for the rich

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 1:05 am

on others than will vote for higher taxes on themselves.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 7:09 am

Because it's the usual nonsense. Whenever pols want to raise taxes they never say "lets vote a tax increase so I can put more of my friends on the payroll in do-nothing jobs". They never say "if taxes are voted down, I'll have to cut out useless clerks who aren't even in their office half the time". Instead, it's always education of police that will take the hit.

San Francisco could return to the staffing levels it had 10 years ago and be just fine. The population hasn't increased that much.

Posted by Scott on Jan. 13, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

progressives saying that we should enforce laws already on the books when there was the vote on sit/lie.

Lee is doing what all politicians do, trying not to alienate lots of people, so like progressive he spouts meaningless.

But something you repeatedly miss is that Lee won. He wasn't elected on the platform of feting the open letter writing dreamers down at the Bay Guardian.

You also think that people who agree with you are honest and anyone who doesn't is manipulated.

Redmond writes in that est style that if you do agree you are out of tune with the citizens, two months after Avalos had his ass handed to him. All carping about the late surge and duped voters of course dismissed.

Lee won Avalos loss.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

ED LEE 59663 30.72%
JOHN AVALOS 37395 19.25%

Posted by matlock on Jan. 06, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

Asking for additional monies without identifying how and where it will be spent is a sure-fire loser. People are not going to approve a tax increase to feed the city's parasitic relationship with Non Profit Inc. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Posted by H. Monk-Brown CI on Jan. 06, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

Maybe they intend to offer it as a gift to the University of California?

Posted by deuxciel on Jan. 06, 2012 @ 6:21 pm
Posted by anonymous on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

Start with public sector employee benefits and pay.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 6:43 am

higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations are an imperative

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 12, 2012 @ 1:08 am

we can assess whether we want to pay more taxes thru the nose to pay for it, or whether it's maybe not really worth having anyway.

A "blank check" tax won't appeal or pass. Nor will a "I hate people more successful than me" tax.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 1:04 am

No more money to government until government starts to provide basic services to residents instead of shunting more and more public resources into favored private coffers and just enough into corrupt nonprofits to keep the big game going.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 06, 2012 @ 6:53 pm

>"Because some people in this town (mostly big business types) just want lower taxes, period -- not different taxes, lower taxes"

Well, yes. Businesses and people most certainly want lower taxes. Welcome to planet Earth.

No where in your analysis is a mention of free will. For example, if a business has to pay an additional 3% (on top of Federal and State) it pushes them that much closer to a business park in San Bruno and a luxury shuttle for the workers. Resulting San Francisco revenue: $0.00.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 06, 2012 @ 7:36 pm

it's easy to move to one of the three Counties that are just a short bus ride away.

Ever noticed how many businesses, office parks and malls there are just across the county line in Emeryville, Colma and Corte Madera? There's a reason for that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 1:07 am

San Francisco is still doing just fine relative to those other cities.

So your point is hollow; rhetorically catchy, but meaningless in actual relevance.

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

by what measure? SF is continually being hollowed out into rich and poor - and increasingly a bedroom community /theme park/corporate playground. Middle income and fixed income people and families have significant advantages living elsewhere in the bay area. Most middle income and above City workers and non profit workers live in the suburbs where they enjoy lower costs on everything and better living conditions. SF has a 7 billion dollar budget and a significant % of circulates outside SF. Progressives never admit their expensive policies encourage leaving assets empty, derelict, underutilised to then be sold to the wealthy. And the streets, schools and MUNI are doing just fine?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 10:10 am

(for example the cost of housing being lower outside the city)

the original point you made was that high taxes and fees drive businesses out of San Francisco

that is simply false, and that is the measure that I was referring to - San Francisco has an incredibly vibrant business environment

and of course, if we raised -more- revenue with which to build more working class housing and improve schools in San Francisco, it is patently obvious that fewer people would have to retreat to the suburbs because of housing prices and school quality

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

I look at the booming Westlake shopping center and the multiplex theaters in Daly City- our old theaters are derelict 1.00 store malls and gyms. Yes the voids left by businesses who can and do leave are filled- maybe-eventually- by other businesses- i cant miss the vacant storefronts, lots and buildings that have littered SF for a very long time. There is a smoke and mirrors quality to SF- our economy is propped up by young tech workers w lots of disposable income, people investing lifesavings in small businesses after being downsized or just wanting to work for themselves, strong healthcare and tourism/convention industries. Larger businesses just offset their high costs
here with lower costs in other markets. We have an investment driven economy as well.
BTW I support taxes on commercial rents, internet advertising and online gaming revenue and oil extraction. I also support financial transaction taxes.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

And as your other comments make clear, San Francisco (as I said previously) is doing just fine. The issue here is how to have a vibrant city by managing -all- of its comparative advantages -together- as a wholistic system. For example, we wouldn't have that tourist revenue and those hipster techies coming to spend their money in the city, if it looked like a Daly City strip mall.

Good to hear you support those various taxes. They are crucial.

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 6:24 am

the trick is taxing services and the tech billionaires have bought city hall-so it will be regressive sales taxes, higher brick and mortar business taxes and fees, and parcel taxes if anthing. That will depress lower income sectors. The good news is, we are in a boom. One bedroom rentals are 2000!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 7:55 am

The more you earn, the more you spend.

Essentials can be zero-rated, while luxuries can be premium-rated.

Europe, which is more "progressive" than us routinely has a 15% to 25% VAT in place of higher income taxes.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

It is not possible to tax luxury items at higher rates at the local level in California.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

it has the same effect if we merely zero-rate or low-rate essentials. This already happens with sales tax so we know it's possible.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

Lee's pro-business policies will bring in far more revenue to SF than your miserly tax schemes ever would.

And the 60% know that.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 07, 2012 @ 1:25 am

Registered Voters: 464,380.
Ed Lee Voters: 59,663. = 12.84%.
Just suggesting that there is no real reason that Lee should use a super minority as a mandate.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 9:50 am

and want to keep, the "instant runoff" had him at 60 or so percent.

Stop whining, it's just pathetic.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

and he should - because if the positions were reversed and Avalos had won with the same amount you'd be urging that Avalos do the exact same thing.

Sore loser.

Posted by H. Monk-Brown CI on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 2:53 pm


Poll: Majority Of California Voters (60%) Support Brown Tax Plan

See the report at:


Posted by anonymous on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

So I don't know who you're criticizing.

Posted by H. Monk-Brown CI on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

and others who claim the voters don't support higher taxes

two billiard balls with one shot, as it were

Posted by anonymous on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

anyone but themselves.

The problem is that tax increases need to hit everyone for them to make an impact on the deficit.

Brown is pretending that tax increases will only be on the rich to get support. But we all know that, if approved, it will be higher taxes on all of us.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 10, 2012 @ 7:31 am

is nowhere to be found on this site. Regardless of how it plays out, it is clearly the biggest story in SF politics right now, and getting bigger everyday.

I'm sure if Lee, Gascon or even Mark Farrell was facing the same allegations, the SFBG would alter the masthead on their site to promote the story.

But Mirkarimi - your guy... let's just not talk about the 8000 pound elephant in the room that just beat the shit out of his wife. Awesome guys.

Posted by Longtime Lurker on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 12:31 pm

just allegations, also parading this through the media at this point is unseemly and dare I say, just wrong.

But if this was a more conservative person we would be treated to how it's systemic in the mindset of the non progressive in their views on strong and powerful womyn and blah blah blah.

Posted by Matlock on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

Oh, and the wife/victim who is not cooperating with investigators even though she is the sheriff's wife.

Quite a bit going on here.

Posted by Longtime Lurker on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

These are allegations and that's it - he's entitled to the presumption of innocence.

One thing this episode will demonstrate is that anyone accused of domestic violence is often immediately treated as if they're guilty. An accusation and a bruise or even a scratch is enough to get one's partner arrested and held in jail for 48 hours. There's a reason the laws evolved like this but I have a feeling, especially now that Mirkarimi's been on the receiving end of a DV investigation, that there's going to be a campaign to change how these kinds of laws are implemented.

Progressives love making laws to address every one of society's ills and on the BOS Mirkarimi was always in the lead of empowering government to involve itself in our lives in deeper and deeper ways. One wonders how he's feeling now that the government has inserted itself into his life and into his relationship in such a deeply intimate manner. Be careful what you wish for Ross.

Posted by H. Monk-Brown CI on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

Matlock, not whining, just stating facts. I'm pragmatic - not invested, que sera. Just hope we can make some progress locally and nationally this year, there are far to many people suffering.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

Never mind - I am a hybrid of the two. Here to keep it real!

Posted by H. Monk-Brown CI on Jan. 08, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

More like a malformed foetus,
"...deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That bark at me as I halt by them"

Congratulations D5 Supervisor Christina Olague, a smart and politic move by Mr Ed which will probably substantially increase his 12.84% voter support when he runs for re-election. Only time will tell.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

which could make him the most influential Mayor since Feinstein.

and all the left can do is wail and gnash their teeth. The fumble has turned into a rout.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 09, 2012 @ 6:14 pm