Taxes

San Fran Bilks Corporations to 'Help the Homeless'

Bay Area voters pass Proposition C, the largest tax hike in the city's history.

Political Editors · Nov. 15, 2018

It’s ironic that leftists continuously decry the increasing amounts of money spent in politics and yet at the same time believe that giving the government more money is the primary means to solving all of society’s problems. This logic was clearly on display last week, when 60% of voters in San Francisco said yes to Proposition C, a ballot initiative that levies a special tax on certain large corporations. Proponents estimate it will bring in $300 million a year, which will be spent on the city’s growing homeless/vagrancy problem. This $300 million is in addition to the $380 million the city is currently spending on a vagrant population of around 7,500.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, was not pleased with the proposition, pointing out the inherently uneven nature of the tax. He wrote, “We’re happy to pay our taxes. We just want to be treated fairly with respect to our peer companies, many of who are 2-10 [times] larger than us. Otherwise we don’t know how to practically grow in the city. That’s heartbreaking for us as we love [San Francisco] and want to continue to help build it.”

Even Mayor London Breed came out against Prop C, which would be the largest tax hike in San Francisco’s history, though her concern stems more from questions regarding the law’s legality. Breed wrote, “If it passes, Proposition C will likely immediately become part of an ongoing lawsuit to invalidate it. … The City could be left balancing its budget with a $300 million unknown baked in.”

According to California law, “special taxes” — taxes that fund a specific government program — must garner at least two-thirds of the vote in order to be legally instituted. Clearly, 60% of the vote is a sizable majority but it’s not two-thirds; thus, lawsuits are bound to be raised should the city go forward with the tax.

But the economic impact may be more damaging to the city in the long run. City economists estimate that Prop C would cost San Fran $200 to $240 million in GDP annually and 14,700 to 17,500 jobs over the next two decades. How exactly will that make the city any more able to deal with the problem of vagrants on the streets? How about ending government-financed welfare programs and encouraging private individuals, churches, and nonprofits to engage the problem instead? True generosity can never be achieved through confiscated and redistributed wealth.


Addendum: Maybe San Francisco wouldn’t have such a problem with homelessness if city regulations and building restrictions hadn’t driven up the price of more than 80% of homes beyond $1 million.

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