San Francisco’s election season is now in high gear. Across the city, campaign materials are filling up mailboxes, newspapers are making endorsements and early voting has begun. With just over two weeks remaining until Election Day, the Chamber encourages our members – and all city voters – to read up on the issues and consider the economic impacts of the November 8 Local Election.
Several propositions on the ballot will have a lasting effect on the city’s economy. Chief among them are two proposals to reform the city’s pension system. Propositions C and D both attempt to control growing pension costs and employee health care obligations. While both measures are good intentioned, the Chamber has endorsed Prop C. It will save $1 billion over the next 10 years by capping benefits, raising the retirement age, increasing employee contributions and reforming oversight of health benefits. While Prop. D also has the potential to reap significant savings, it may violate state law and puts the city at risk for a costly legal challenge we simply cannot afford.
It’s unfortunate that voters have to evaluate two competing pension reform measures. Even more unfortunate is the fact that voting for both measures will NOT bring the best of both worlds. The proposition with the most yes votes will take effect because of how the measures were written. As a result, the Chamber encourages members to vote YES on C and NO on D in order to tackle our city’s pension problem, which is now consuming one out of every seven city tax dollars.
Another key issue on the ballot is the local sales tax. Proposition G will allow the city to impose a local one-half percent sales tax beginning in April 2012 to preserve vital public safety, health and human services. This measure comes after the expiration of the one percent state sales tax that was in effect earlier this year. Its passage will bring the city’s sales tax rate to 9 percent. The rate was previously 9.5 percent.
The Chamber does not take any proposal to raise taxes lightly. But after much dialogue and debate, the Chamber endorses Prop G. Before giving our endorsement, the Chamber worked aggressively to amend the measure to include a four-year rollback provision that ensures the city will revoke the tax if the state re-imposes its one percent sales tax. It is with this assurance that the Chamber can get behind this very difficult pill to swallow, which will help safeguard the city from the drastic impact the state budget crisis is having on San Francisco.
Other important measures on the ballot include a $531 million GO Bond to rehabilitate school facilities (Prop A), a $248 million General Obligation (GO) Bond for street repair (Prop B), two good governance measures related to amending initiative ordinances and campaign consultant disclosures (Prop E & F) and a school assignment initiative (Prop H). The Chamber endorses all of these measures, which invest in our city, its families and the future.
While the Chamber does not endorse candidates, the mayor’s race is of critical importance. The next mayor will set the tone at City Hall and preside over negotiations with every major city union. The new mayor will also influence business tax reform, state budget realignment and key developments such as the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) rebuild and preparations for the America’s Cup. Many of our partner organizations do endorse candidates and we encourage our members to visit the websites of the Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth and the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of San Francisco to get the business perspective on the mayor’s race.
San Francisco is at a cross roads when it comes to economic recovery. We remain a bright spot and stand to benefit from many recently-approved developments such as the Hunters Point Shipyard, Treasure Island, Parkmerced and several others. However, the upcoming election marks a critical juncture. We can either continue down a path towards jobs and economic growth, or lose our focus and slow the engines of recovery.
The Chamber encourages our members – and all city voters – to join us in voting for the measures and candidates that will create jobs and a better economic future for San Francisco. We invite you to view our Voting Guide and take it to the polls on November 8!
Early voting is available at the Department of Elections office on the ground floor of City Hall, Mon – Fri, 8 am – 5 pm and on Oct. 29, 30 and Nov. 5, 6.