COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | SEAN KARAFIN

A new year for taxpayers

I hope 2014 allows San Diego to get past the crippling distractions of this past year and back to solving problems. At the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, we will continue to research and educate the public on critical taxpayer issues.

One of the most important issues of 2013 will become even bigger in 2014. The San Diego City Council recently voted to increase the fees on commercial construction by as much as 900 percent. The idea behind the linkage fee or Jobs Tax is that new commercial buildings create the opportunity for new jobs, and some of those jobs won’t pay enough to live locally.

That is how subsidized housing advocates mistakenly conclude that job creation produces a need for additional subsidized housing. The logic is so backward and damaging to our economy that it inspired the Taxpayers Association to join local businesses and other nonprofits in forming the Jobs Coalition to fight the massive tax increase.

In the real world, creating jobs helps people afford housing. In other words, creating opportunity does not make it harder to afford housing. The twisted logic of advocates resulted in a policy of taxing job creation to pay for subsidized housing.

The much more productive approach to the issue of housing affordability in San Diego would be to create policies that do the exact opposite of the Jobs Tax. The city of San Diego should encourage job creation instead of taxing it.

Taxing job creation pushes businesses to build or expand in neighboring cities and slows job growth in San Diego, which means there will be less tax revenue for neighborhood services. The Taxpayers Association and the Jobs Coalition will be working hard to overturn the Jobs Tax in the coming year.

In another of our higher-profile efforts of 2013, we elevated the debate about emergency ambulance services within the city of San Diego. Some city leaders and the local firefighters union proposed insourcing emergency ambulance services within the city’s Fire-Rescue Department.

The initial discussion was misleading and limited to nondescript talking points. In response, the Taxpayers Association embarked on a substantial research effort to estimate the cost of insourcing the service and to understand several issues that were being glossed over, such as the impacts of the Affordable Care Act.

When we estimated $47 million in ongoing annual costs and lost revenues, the debate turned productive and it became clear that the idea would come with a substantial financial risk to taxpayers.

In 2014, we will continue to fight the backward logic of subsidized-housing advocates and expand on our emergency ambulance services research, but these two issues represent just the tip of the iceberg.

We also will continue to defend the consistently attacked Proposition 13 — which limits the growth of property tax bills. We will continue to shine a light on the underfunding of pensions countywide and across the state. We will ask the tough questions about funding for road repairs and other needed neighborhood services and, above all, we will continue to look out for taxpayers throughout our region.

Karafin is San Diego County Taxpayers Association’s economic policy analyst.

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