Senator Toni Atkins’ Senate Bill 2 is focused on one of the gnawing problems eating away at California’s people and economy—affordable housing. Yet, the bill is struggling to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. The author has made amendments to bring colleagues aboard. But, the larger issue SB 2 must overcome is that it is a tax at a time when citizens are hearing that term too frequently.
The state has made an effort to deal with the affordable housing problem. SB 2, itself, carries of litany of efforts to build housing: funding approved by state voters in 2002 and 2006; ten-percent of the cap-and-trade funds; hundreds of millions for veterans housing under Proposition 41; a couple of billion in revenue bonds for the homeless and mentally ill.
In addition, SB 3, a $4-billion state bond is on its way to the ballot.
Local governments have issued their own bonds and taxes to confront the homeless issue. For example, both Los Angeles City and County passed a tax and a bond recently aimed at alleviating the homeless problem.
Sen. Atkins amended her bill to push even more of the money she hopes to raise to local governments for their battle against homelessness.
Yet, despite all these efforts, both legislators and residents are frustrated with the growing homeless population, with estimates that 20-percent of America’s homeless live in California. Many residents may also be confused with the number of different funding programs set up to help the homeless.
The idea behind SB 2 is that it will be a permanent fund to deal with homeless issues. Bonds run out eventually, cap-and-trade revenues can be directed elsewhere. SB 2 would require a fee from $75 to $225 at the time of recording of every real estate instrument such as deeds. There are exceptions. A two-thirds vote is needed to pass the fee and approve the bill as an urgency measure to take effect immediately.
Some legislators are reluctant to push the Yes button on another tax measure. Already this session the legislature has passed a gas tax increase that has one Democratic senator facing a recall and a cap-and-trade extension defined by many as a tax that cost the Republican assembly leader his job.
There is talk of tax on water as explored in another piece on this site today and then the fee—tax–proposed for housing under SB 2.
How eager are legislators to vote for another tax measure even for an issue that is a concern across the political spectrum?