Is Steinberg Being Reckless? … Mayor wants to double a ‘temporary’ sales-tax hike

By Craig Powell

If all you knew about the performance of Mayor Darrell Steinberg in office was what you read in the pages of The Sacramento Bee, two things would be apparent. First, you’d think Steinberg was that rarest of creatures: a politician incapable of making a misstep or a bad policy choice. Second, you’d be woefully ill-informed about the potential downside consequences of his policies—and some of the cynical political calculations behind them.

Since the June primary, the mayor has been a man on fire. His first salvo was to publicly press the City Council and city voters to support his campaign to double the “temporary” one-half-percent sales-tax hike known as Measure U, which was approved by voters six years ago as an emergency response to city service cuts in the Great Recession. He seems not to care that Measure U was sold to voters as a temporary tax designed to fill the coffers of a recession-battered city.

Neither the mayor nor The Bee bothers to point out that city revenues have fully recovered from the recession. City revenues have risen 16 percent over the past two years and were up 6 percent last year. The mayor and The Bee have also failed to mention that the city’s labor costs soared 8.5 percent last year on the heels of pricey new city union contracts and soaring pension costs. How pricey? Under the new police contract, officers with more than four years on the job were given 17 percent pay raises (not counting the impact such raises have on city pension costs), while average annual increases in the CPI were less than 1.3 percent over the past four years.

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  1. My utility bills have been going up an average of ten percent per year. That adds up. Not that I’m using more, it’s that the city keeps hiking the fees.

    If I do a big ticket purchase, I’ll actually drive to another county. That one percent will pay for my gas and time. So you can guess, it’s gonna be no on Measure U.

  2. You are doing superb work Craig, honor is due, and a donation too.

  3. Wayne Luney says:

    I am dead set against any increases in California income taxes or in general sales taxes (State or local) as long as we retain the inherently unfair provision in Proposition 13 which restricts real estate assessment increases to 2% per year unless the property is sold or substantially improved. This has resulted in wide differences in property taxes on near-identical property in the same jurisdiction. For example, if I sold my own home at current market value the new owner would have to pay three times as much in property taxes as I am now paying. I think that I am receiving an undeserved benefit.

    You might ask, “If you think your taxes are too low, why don’t you make a voluntary contribution of the difference to Sacramento County?” The reason I don’t is that I think that our income and sales taxes are too high. California is a high tax state. I do not have a legal option to pay less than the amount California or Sacramento County requires of these taxes. So I pay what is required and accept the benefits of Proposition 13.

  4. Measure U and Police Pensions are great topics. Help me understand something though, won’t voters have to vote in the new tax proposal?

    As for the cops, isn’t our litigious society making policing harder and more expensive? Isn’t Sacramento having trouble retaining officers because of less than competitive wages? How many years did they go without raises? When you say 17% is that raise happening all in one year or for an entire contract over several years? Looking at the numbers, 7% is spread out over 2 years, which sounds like a 3.5% pay raise per year. As for the other 10%, only new cops who hit 4.5 years on the force will get a 5 percent raise, followed by another 5 percent bump a year later. That sounds like a new cop retention bonus to keep officers from bailing on a system. Calling it a 17% raise sounds a little disingenuous.

    As for the pension costs, they pay into the system over the course of an entire career. It is not like that money comes from nowhere.