Voters reject half-cent sales tax increase as Prop D soundly defeated
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A proposition that would raise the sales tax in San Diego by a half-cent failed to garner enough support from voters Tuesday, raising the prospect of deep budget cuts next fiscal year.
With 30 percent of the precincts counted, 61.9 percent of San Diego voters were opposed to Proposition D.
Proposition D would have raised the sales tax in San Diego from 8.75 cents to 9.25 cents and generated about $102 million annually for the city's general fund.
Mayor Jerry Sanders has projected a budget shortfall for San Diego of $72 million next fiscal year.
“The voters have spoken,” Sanders said in conceding Proposition D's failure. “While I am disappointed in the outcome, I respect their decision and I will do everything in my power to implement the outcome in a way that minimizes the impact on residents of San Diego.”
Councilman Carl DeMaio, who led the opposition, said he was thrilled with the outcome of the vote.
“By defeating Prop. D, San Diegans have issued a mandate for reform and change in city government,” DeMaio said.
Proposition D was linked to 10 reform benchmarks — related to city pensions, retiree health care obligations and outsourcing. Four of those changes have already been adopted by the San Diego City Council.
Supporters of Proposition D argued the new revenue was needed to maintain and restore city services, including public safety.
Opponents accused Sanders and other proponents of using scare tactics to frighten the public into voting for the tax increase by threatening public safety cuts.
They insist the budget gap could be closed by eliminating wasteful spending at City Hall, overhauling the pension system and streamlining municipal finances.
DeMaio said he plans to release a plan on Friday to close the city's fiscal year 2012 budget shortfall without cuts to police and fire services.
“With these results, with the rejection of Proposition D, it is now time for the mayor and City Council to put aside all differences and work together as a team to implement reforms in the city's budget, reforms in the city's pensions, implement managed competition and do the things that are necessary to move our city past this crisis,” DeMaio told KUSI.
To help close the anticipated spending shortfall, city departments have proposed laying off firefighters, instituting more “brownouts” of fire engine companies, the loss of 169 sworn police officers, closing libraries or trimming hours of operation, shuttering recreation centers and pools and less park maintenance.
Councilwoman Donna Frye, who was key in getting Proposition D on the ballot, said the vote was a “disappointment.”
“We put together a plan,” Frye said. “We put together the best plan we could put together to try and figure out a way to once and for all to resolve the city's financial problems.”