Proposal to increase sales tax stirs debate; Mayor’s campaign staffer calls proposal ‘regressive’
City Council members voiced support of a possible sales tax increase that could bring as much as $13.5 million to city coffers, but won’t act on it until after this year’s city budget is finalized. They mayor said he opposes the proposal, and his campaign manager called it "regressive."
The tax increase was recommended by Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman and mayoral candidate Jonathan Rewers in response to the results of a poll commissioned by the city that showed 71 percent of city voters would favor a sales tax increase to support city services, especially if the money is used to offset cuts to city police, fire and youth services.
“Despite what I think, a sales taxes seems to be something that the voters would be interested in,” Rewers told coucl members Tuesday. “It’s time we talk abour reinvesting in our services.”
The poll was conducted in April by a Santa Monica-based public opinion research firm, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, to gauge public support for potential revenue measures to restore city services.
The Sacramento Press reported on the poll results and Rewers’ recommendation earlier Tuesday, and an intense debate among our readers quickly ensued.
Juliana West commented on The Sacramento Press Facebook page that she thinks funding city parks and park maintenance is important – important enough for a tax increase, which she believes will likely happen anyway.
“If it wasn’t for our neighborhood cleanup group, I do not feel our park would even be clean enough to go to with my kids,” West said on the Facebook page. “It is something that needs to be done, is very important to me and, yes, I would be willing to spend an extra quarter percent to make sure our parks get taken care of.”
Mayor Kevin Johnson’s campaign manager, Steve Maviglio, also joined the debate below the Sacramento Press story, saying the sales tax is “the most regressive type of tax there is, hitting low-income families the hardest.”
Maviglio took particular objection to Rewers’ suggestion that, in addition to any tax measure, a companion measure should be on the ballot giving voters an opportunity to say how they would want the tax revenue spent. Maviglio said that Rewers was advocating “letting voters draw up the budget” and called the idea “another absurd proposal that sounds good on paper but makes little sense.”
“We elect city councillors and the Mayor to look at the city budget, assess the needs, and make the best determination of where our tax money should be spent,” Maviglio wrote.
Council members, however, seemed open to the idea of increasing the sales tax to help fund city services.
City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said she agrees with Rewers.
“It sounds like people in Sacramento want to invest in themselves,” Ashby said. “We need to hear from people in the community about what they want, and we should be responsive to their answers.”
“I think this is important, and we need to find out what community members want, but we should be careful what we wish for,” Councilman Jay Schenirer said.
Councilman Kevin McCarty said people in his district are definitely interested in having a conversation about a sales tax increase – and they are likely to vote yes.
“It’s gratifying to know that the public is pretty educated on this and are not ideologically rigid on this tax issue,” Councilman Steve Cohn said. “They seem pretty pragmatic, as these surveys show.”
The council did not take any action on the poll results Tuesday, but members indicated they would take up the issue after the city budget is completed in June.
According to the city clerk, the deadline for the City Council to put a tax proposal on the November ballot is July 24.
Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.