Media Reaction To SF Mayor’s Veto Of Alcohol Tax

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As I reported yesterday, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom kept his promise to veto the proposed ordinance that seeks to add an additional tax on alcohol sold in the city.

Here’s mayor Newsom’s veto letter that he sent to city supervisors:

This letter communicates my veto of the ordinance pending in File Number 100865, finally passed by the Board of Supervisors today, September 21, 2010. This ordinance proposes an Alcohol Mitigation Fee to be imposed on alcoholic beverage wholesalers and others who sell or distribute alcoholic beverages in San Francisco.

I cannot support this unnecessary and harmful new fee that will hurt our City’s economy and cost us jobs at a time when we most need them.

In this economy, I fundamentally believe that we need to be encouraging local businesses – large and small – to continue to work and operate in our neighborhoods, to continue to provide jobs and security to the residents of San Francisco, and to continue to support our City’s economy in its recovery. It is in these times of struggle that we need to stimulate our local economy – not pursue policies that will stifle growth and put our county at a competitive disadvantage with every other county in California.

In addition, while we have faced significant budget deficits for the last three years, we consistently have supported the provision of critical health care services to our residents most in need – at a much higher rate than surrounding counties. And, we will continue to do so. Therefore, I do not accept the premise that, but for this fee, we will be slashing our health care programs.

I also strongly believe that we are in questionable legal territory due to state preemption issues, and that passing this ordinance would risk millions of dollars in attorney’s fees that we can ill afford. I prefer to hold those battles for creative policy areas where we believe we are in strong legal standing.

I remain committed to working with the Board of Supervisors and City departments to continue to identify impactful programs to help chronic inebriates in San Francisco. However, I do not believe that an alcohol impact fee is the best approach in achieving that policy goal. Our best hope for continued strong financial standing of this City and support for public health services is to help our local economy grow and thrive.

The media reaction has been swift and voluminous. At least twenty media outlets throughout the state have weighed in since yesterday afternoon. Here’s what the San Francisco Chronicle, by John Coté, had to say:

Newsom contends the fee would hurt jobs and is illegal, treading on the state’s authority to regulate alcohol.

“You don’t help the city’s general fund by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a lawsuit we’re going to lose,” Newsom said.

Other opponents, such as the San Francisco , argue the fee is really a tax and thus needs voter approval. The city attorney issued a confidential opinion to supervisors that warned of potentially significant legal risks associated with the legislation on both fronts. Liquor industry representatives vowed to sue if the legislation were enacted.

And I love this gem. “Avalos said there was simply ‘no evidence’ that consumers would face inflated costs.” Puh-leeze. His insistence that there would be no mark-up on the tax from wholesaler to retailer to consumer is completely naive and disingenuous. Everyone in the business community is telling him the tax will be marked up, but that’s not “evidence.” Does he think they’re all lying just because they don’t like the tax? Has he never worked in any business capacity? That’s what businesses do, they mark up their costs and pass them along to consumers. Not doing so is how you go out of business.

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