SF Resolution Not About Fairness; It’s About More Tax Revenue

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution this month seeking to undo a major part of Proposition 13 that is cloaked in claims of fairness but is clearly nothing more than a call to raise and spend more tax revenue. The resolution says Proposition 13 is unfair because commercial and residential property are treated the same under the measure ignoring that commercial and residential property were treated the same before Prop 13 passed.

The resolution is concerned with the percentages of the total tax pie paid by commercial property owners and complains that because of Prop 13 the state relies too much on income and sales taxes.

So, does the resolution call for cutting income and sales taxes while increasing the property tax on business? Not on your life — because the resolution is about raising taxes.

The property tax shift argument also is just a smoke screen for the goal of increasing taxes on business property owners. Homeowners seem to be comfortable with the property taxes they are paying as the recent Public Policy Institute poll indicated voters still strongly support Proposition 13.

In fact, the San Francisco resolution frankly points to a Board of Equalization estimate that reassessing commercial property would bring in six to twelve billion dollars, money the supervisors and other local government officials are eager to spend.

The resolution points out that government relying on income and sales tax revenue is affected by economic cycles. However, there is no acknowledgement on the economic effects of annually raising the property taxes on commercial property. Do the sponsors of the resolution think that business can simply pay increased taxes without raising the cost of goods and services or cutting jobs?

Finally, the resolved section of the resolution carries an odd request of supporting regular reassessments of commercial property while maintaining Proposition 13 protections for residential property and small business owners. Are not small businesses commercial enterprises?

Small businesses that rent their workspace in corporate owned buildings often sign leases, which require them to pay any property tax increase.

Is the intent of the Board of Supervisors to start down the complex and divisive road of property classifications for tax purposes – deciding which business qualifies as a small business? In Minnesota, so many interests petitioned government for their own property classification at one time there were 68 property classes on the books. Fairness is certainly lost in such a convoluted system.

The small business dictate was undoubtedly put in the resolution in the name of “fairness.”

In actually, the supervisors seem to be saying that it is not fair that they don’t have more tax money to spend.

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