San Francisco voters last week approved a business tax increase on the city’s most profitable companies to swell budget resources for its homelessness crisis. The tax could bring in up to $300 million for the city each year, doubling the money currently budgeted for homelessness and a 30 percent bump in overall tax revenue.
At issue now is whether tax increases proposed at the grassroots level, like this one, require a two-thirds voter majority, as would be the case if city officials had proposed it. Since the measure, known as Proposition C, did not win a two-thirds majority, the City Attorney’s office has asked the Superior Court of California in San Francisco to weigh in.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said he believes voters will fight any challenge to the initiative. His company forked over $5 million to support the tax campaign on top of his own personal $2 million gift. Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey campaigned against the tax.
Support hinged on the view that big companies and their highly paid workers in the Bay Area are partly to blame for increasing poverty and homelessness. LinkedIn software engineer Evan Owski shamed himself for his salary and “privilege” in a video posted by KQED radio. Owski, who was wearing a Democratic Socialists of America T-shirt in the video, said rich tech people treat San Francisco like a “playground.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she opposed Proposition C but “addressing the homelessness crisis on our streets is my top priority.” She said she first wanted to audit what the city is already spending on homelessness before generating more revenue.
The city’s own Office of Economic Analysis stated that the new tax would likely slow San Francisco’s job growth and cost the city $200 million to $240 million in gross domestic product annually.
San Francisco is the latest boomtown to blame and tax the rich to help the poor. Earlier this year, the Seattle City Council passed—and later, under pressure, repealed—a poll tax on companies grossing $20 million or more. —Rob Holmes