Polling done in July indicates voters aren’t especially interested in raising taxes until the city negotiates true pension reform, which is why the City Council decided on Tuesday to delay any action on revenue ballot measures.
Questions put forward to 1,206 voters in San Jose from July 13-19 asked about quarter-cent and half-cent sales tax increases, which could go toward the general fund by simple majority approval or to public safety services by two-thirds approval. The poll, conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates, found that 57 percent of voters would consider approving a quarter-cent sales tax, with only 31 percent firmly supporting the idea.
The margin of error for the survey was 2.8 percent.
While results for a quarter-cent sales tax increase appear to be on the right side of the ledger for majority approval, Mayor Chuck Reed and other councilmembers said that support would likely erode through opposing campaign efforts. They did say that November 2012 might be a better time to approach voters about a sales tax increase.
Despite signing a state budget on time, Gov. Jerry Brown was unable to garner enough Republican support for a special election to extend a one-cent sales tax increase that was approved by the Legislature in 2009. The current sales tax in San Jose is 8.25 percent.
Reed has been pushing to declare a fiscal emergency since May, which he has said would pave the way for pension reform ballot measures. His attempts have been repeatedly delayed. The city is currently negotiating retirement benefits reform with its unions through October while also discussing pension reform ballot measures for March 2012.
City officials have estimated that San Jose will experience a budget shortfall of $78 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which would be the 11th straight year San Jose has been outspending its revenue. The mayor has said the city cannot afford to cut back services any further after eliminating hundreds of positions in June, laying off police officers for the first time in the city’s history and cutting back hours for libraries and community centers.