Sorry Tech Billionaires, San Francisco Just Voted For A Tax To Fight The Homelessness Crisis

Sorry Tech Billionaires, San Francisco Just Voted For A Tax To Fight The Homelessness Crisis

In spite of some public bellyaching over perceived fairness on behalf of several high-profile, wealthy technology company heads prior to election day, the voters of San Francisco have cast their ballots in favour of Proposition C. Under the measure, businesses with over $US50 ($69) million in gross receipts will be taxed 0.175 to 0.69 per cent in order to fund housing and homelessness services.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who poured millions of private and corporate money into bolstering the measure and was among its most vocal proponents, shared a statement on Twitter following the proposition’s win.

Zynga’s chairman and co-founder Mark Pincus, who previously tweeted that the measure was the “is the dumbest, least thought out prop ever” and advised his followers to vote against it, engaged in a war of words with Benioff over Proposition C on the social platform just days ago. But he appeared to change his tune this week following the proposition’s victory. On Wednesday, he grouped the measure in with a list of “good elections results” and added that “we will all work to make a success for [the city’s] homeless.”

Proposition C passed on Tuesday with nearly 60 per cent of the vote, despite the opposition’s support from Silicon Valley types like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Y Combinator Paul Graham, and Stripe founder Patrick Collision. Many of them, including Pincus and Dorsey, argued that their companies would be taxed disproportionately to titans like Salesforce.

The tax on big businesses—a good chunk of them in the technology sector—is expected to bring in between $US250 ($345) million and $US300 ($414) million annually and essentially double the city’s spending on homelessness services. The tax revenue will be allocated to mental health services, homelessness prevention, shelter beds, and affordable housing.

But the proposition still has some legal hurdles to navigate. As the Ringer notes:

California law dictates that local ballot measures raising taxes require a two-thirds majority to pass; however, a state Supreme Court ruling last year lowered the threshold to a simple majority for propositions launched by citizens, as Prop C was. But that decision is now under legal review, and the city is unlikely to start spending any of the voter-approved funds until the courts have given a definitive green light.

Jess Montejano, the campaign spokesperson for “No on Prop C,” said in a statement that the proposition’s failure to secure two-thirds voter support means that its victory is essentially hollow.

“From day one, both sides knew that two-thirds voter support was necessary because of pending litigation from this year’s June primary election,” Montejano said. “The Yes on C campaign’s last-minute, multimillion-dollar investments failed to effectively move the needle because voters were clearly divided.”

However, the measure’s proponents remain hopeful. According to the New York Times’ Kate Conger (a former Gizmodo staffer), the San Francisco Attorney’s Office is working to resolve that legal barrier by “asking the city’s Superior Court to affirm that special tax increases proposed by voters can be passed with a simple majority vote.”

Sam Lew, policy director for the Coalition on Homelessness and the manager of the proponent campaign, told the paper: “If there is a legal challenge, there will be thousands of San Franciscans who will fight against it.”

As for the thriving tech giants of Silicon Valley and their billionaire company heads, something tells me they’ll be just fine.

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