Last week, a proposed ballot measure that would have levied a 1.5 percent payroll tax on tech companies in San Francisco died in committee before making it to the Board of Supervisors for a full vote.
Its supporters hoped some $115 million could be raised each year from tech companies in the city, establishing a fund that would be used for building affordable housing and addressing homelessness.
Opponents said residents would never support the measure and pointed to a report by the city’s chief economist that said the tax would likely harm the city by reducing demand within the local economy.
We decided to ask candidates for District 9 supervisor what they thought of the tax and what other means they would try to extract wealth from tech companies to address the housing crisis.
What do you think of the proposed tax on tech firms? Why is this the right, or wrong, way of extracting wealth from tech companies to alleviate the housing crisis?
Respuestas en español aquí.
Joshua Arce, community liaison for Laborers Local 261
I believe everyone needs to pay their fair share. Those doing the best in this economy should help those who are struggling.
The technology sector should and I believe is ready to do more for local business, local workers and housing, this should be encouraged.
I don’t believe that only taxing one industry when there are so many others earning substantial profits makes sense. Local voters agree, only a few years ago we overwhelmingly passed Proposition E to eliminate the payroll tax and replace it with a profits based tax. This is a fairer tax system.
I believe we should look for more money to pay for housing and homeless services, but this revenue should be identified across all industries.
Iswari España, training officer with the San Francisco Human Services Agency
I find it unacceptable and unfair that some companies don’t pay their equal share of tax revenue, yet they conduct business in our city.
A report released by the Controller’s Office said that the tax could generate between $70 to $140 million in revenue and reduce revenue from small business registration fees by $5.3 million, a good amount to alleviate the housing situation. It’s beyond me how city officials are contemplating squashing the idea over the argument that businesses will suffer a loss. The mere implication that jobs will be lost is absurd. The cost of fair business practices should not be passed down to workers (tech workers) and the city should regulate the process.
Hillary Ronen, chief of staff for Supervisor David Campos
Legislation that shifted our payroll tax to gross receipts, removed stock options from the business tax, and created tax breaks designed to lure tech companies into the city has created an economy that’s more profitable for tech startups over other types of business.
I believe it’s time to recalibrate our business taxes to create more equity in the system and for industries that are just as important to our economy: like tourism, biotechnology, and the production of locally made goods.
However, I’m concerned about a harmful dynamic in San Francisco that I believe unfairly blames tech workers for the city’s most difficult challenges. This dynamic is often fueled by the media. I think there’s a natural unity between tech workers who are trying to disrupt and improve outdated systems, and the people fighting for systemic reform and economic equality.
I want to work collaboratively with these communities to raise greater revenue from tech companies to build affordable housing and to solve our homeless crisis.
Melissa San Miguel, education advocate
The tech tax was wrong, ill-conceived, and short-sighted. It’s not surprising that it would come out of our woefully misguided leaders who simply need to go. The tax bizarrely targeted for punishment an industry that has helped to grow our local economy and make our region the envy of the world. Tech companies and their workers are an important part of the San Francisco community. Yes — we are in a housing crisis that demands action, but leaders create legislation like this to divide our communities and distract us from the fact they have failed in putting in the work and serving the community. Not only was this a bad tax, it tried to turn us against each other. We need leadership, not scapegoating. We need real solutions, not political games.
43 Questions is a weekly series — started 43 weeks before Election Day — to question the candidates running for District 9 supervisor. Send us questions to email@example.com and let us know in comments or in an email if you think candidates have answered as asked.