With a record budget deficit approaching $100 million and the limited sources of income dwindling in the recession, San Jose’s City Council is looking for creative ways to raise income. According to City Councilmember Nora Campos, “the only one of the items that even polled fair and that we may have an opportunity to receive some revenues” is the expansion of San Jose’s licensed card tables. According to Mayor Chuck Reed, the resulting tax revenues could be as much as $2-3 million per year.
The city currently has two card rooms, Garden City Casino and Bay 101. Bay 101, is already looking for opportunities to expand. The two already generate $13.5 million in tax revenues for the city.
There are several problems however. In October, it was reported that the club owners were already complaining to the city that the fees and taxes they paid were too high, and that was perceived as a threat to relocate if the city raises taxes on them. In other words, they are in a strong negotiating position with the city.
Furthermore, there is opposition from City Councilmember Sam Liccardo, who said, “Certainly no one is going to turn down the tax revenue that the gaming clubs create for the city, but at the same time, nobody wants Las Vegas in the middle of downtown San Jose.”
Then there is the problem of voter approval, which will be necessary before the card rooms expand. On the other hand, this is more likely to pass than another proposed revenue-earner—a proposed quarter of a percent increase on sales taxes.
The problem is that most likely victims of budget cuts will be city employees—550 of them out of a total workforce of 6,250. The SJPD and SJFD could see as much as 7 percent of their staff laid off, including 140 sworn police officers, 91 of them in patrol. And forget about the city’s library’s. Hours are about to be slashed in half, and as many as 88 people could lose their jobs.
While it’s being taken for granted that the taxpayers will end up paying their share and that the city will likely end up making cuts. The question now remains whether the eleven city employee unions will also be prepared to take some cuts. Though nine contracts are up for renewal, they’ve already signaled that they won’t just roll over. Which means the city may just have to deal—cards, that is.
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