Newsom’s tax proposals

Pub date May 26, 2009
SectionEditorialSectionNews & Opinion

EDITORIAL Mayor Gavin Newsom and a negotiating team from the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 have hammered out yet another deal, this one slightly better for the workers than the proposal that the 11,000 union members voted down last week. As part of the deal, SEIU members will take 10 legal holidays without pay over the next 14 months, and gain five floating paid holidays. It’s way better, for both the city and the union, than the prospect of 1,000 more layoffs — and the deep service cuts that so many job cuts would entail.

As a part of the negotiation, Newsom agreed to suspend any further layoffs — and, more important, promised to work with labor and the business community on possible revenue measures for November. That’s an encouraging sign, but Newsom needs to do much more. He needs to be out front, now, meeting openly with the various interest groups and constituencies and working with the supervisors to craft progressive new tax proposals that will work as more than a one-year stopgap.

Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff, is famous for saying that no politician should let a crisis go to waste, and San Francisco’s current fiscal crisis ought to be a chance to fix the unfair and broken business tax system that both hampers job creation and allows the biggest players to get off far too easy.

And to make the point that he’s serious about raising new revenue, Newsom should include in the budget that he presents to the board a projection that the city will have another $100 million or so to spend in the next fiscal year because of revenue plans that he expects will pass, with his help and strong support, in November.

That would do two things: it would demonstrate to the supervisors that the mayor is serious about looking for ways to bring in more money, and it would stave off the most debilitating, immediate cuts for the beginning of Fiscal 2010.

Newsom is still a popular mayor and has a sophisticated political operation behind him. Right now he’s using his good will, fundraising ability, and seasoned political advisors to help him get elected governor. If he is willing to bring that level of effort back home — and use it to pass some significant tax reforms in his own city — it would do a lot more to show his leadership ability than all the campaign trips in the world. *