The voting rubber is about to hit the election road as the heft of the flyers in my mailbox can attest. Two weeks from tomorrow is Election Day, but the absentee voting causes the candidates and issues advocates to be ahead of the fixed date. I've given the Measure I tax proposal some thought and have come to a different conclusion than many of my friends (and my wife). I do believe before one comes out against something one should be able to state the supporters' point of view, so as I understand it these are the main points:
- It's a tiny tax of a quarter of a percent
- Our sales tax rate is lower than some neighboring cities
- It will be mostly paid by non-Burlingamers shopping here
- We need the money for streets, policing and other General Fund expenses hence the tree, the streetlight and officer's cap on the lawn signs
- We can borrow against expected proceeds to accelerate stuff we want
First I'll stipulate that taxes that stay local to where they are raised are better than the other kind. The leaky sieves that are the County and Sacramento are a crying shame. It is a tiny tax increase, but nonetheless it's going in the wrong direction after numerous other taxes (direct and indirect) passed like: the gas tax, the Prop 55 income tax on incomes above $250K, bond measures, Cap and Trade, the impending Caltrain tax, bridge toll increases and the distinct possibility that state and local tax deductions on Federal returns could be killed.
If our sales taxes are lower than our neighbors, I say "Good" especially since we have a nice slug of high-value sales happening on Auto Row. Why aren't we advertising THAT instead of trying to erase the advantage? And the fact that out-of-towners also shop here doesn't obviate the desire to "Shop Local" for B'gamers. Why push more people to on-line?
Then there is the "We need the money" argument. In the big picture, we are a pretty fiscally solvent city. We also have a building boom happening. While residential costs us money (even at B'game prices), commercial contributes and big commercial like we are seeing now should contribute big. Have we looked at increasing the business license fee/tax? It was traditionally $100 regardless of whether you were a donut shop or Virgin America! And a new Top Golf money machine is due out on the Bayfront. To top it all off, the street that is most in need of repair is El Camino and this tax won't help that since it is the State's responsibility.
I'm not too worried about accountability for the funds should "I" pass. And if the revenue stream exists, borrowing against it will seldom be better timed than now. I do worry that a big chunk of new money might cause the new Rec Center to be over-designed, but again it's the principle not the implementation. Getting nickel'ed and dime'd to death appears to be a California specialty and we should not just play along. No on "I".