Making it in San Diego: Concerns rise over having two tax hikes on ballot

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-14 00:52:44-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- San Diego voters may be asked to approve a pair of tax increases on this year's November ballot that could help solve key issues, including the homeless crisis.

But some concerns are growing that the measures could doom each other. 

Currently, the San Diego Housing Federation is pushing to have a property tax increase on the November ballot. It would charge about $19 for every $100,000 in assessed value, so the typical homeowner would pay about $70 to $90 extra a year, said Stephen Russell, the organization's director.

It would create 7,500 new affordable housing units.

"We have a crisis on our hands and we believe that time demands that we act," he said.

Meanwhile, a coalition of business and labor groups, and homeless advocates are advancing toward placing a tourist tax increase on the ballot. It would send hundreds of millions of dollars in the near term toward fixing roads, expanding the convention center, and boosting homeless services.

"It can be everything from job training to mental health services to housing," said Keith Maddox, a trustee for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. 

The hotel tax would rise 3.25 percent in hotels closest to the city core, 2.25 percent farther away, and 1.25 percent closest to city limits.

Russell said he hopes both measures pass. However, Maddox said his group prefers Russell's property tax hike not be on the 2018 ballot. 

Maddox said polling shows that the property tax measure is putting a drag on the tourist tax hike's chances of passing. He added that the polling shows the tourist tax increase actually does have a realistic chance to be approved. 

Seth Kaplowitz, a finance lecturer at San Diego State who lives outside the city, said he sees an opposite impact. 

"I think when you put these two side-by-side, people are going to say raise my property taxes? Forget that. They're going to go to the tourist tax," he said. 

Kaplowitz said the property tax hike, which needs a two-thirds majority, is an even harder sell now that there's a $10,000 limit on federal property tax write-offs. 

Either way, Russell says he's not giving up his push to get his measure on the November ballot. He says the region the region can't wait two more years. He added his group's own polling shows the property tax increase widely supported.

On Wednesday, a San Diego city council committee voted 3-2 to continue fine tuning Russell's measure before sending it to the full council, which could place it on the November ballot.

Meanwhile, the Yes! For a Better San Diego Campaign, pushing to raise the tourist tax, says it has gathered more than 100,000 signatures to qualify it for a vote.