Oakland City Councilwoman Jean Quan has become the poster-child for what not to do in a steep recession. Now that her wrongheaded plan to raise parcel taxes is all but dead, Quan is proposing to raise the city sales tax to 10.25 percent during the worst economic downturn in decades, according to the Trib and Chron. Quan says the half-cent tax increase will raise about $8 million in revenue for the city. But sales taxes are arguably even more regressive than parcel taxes, because they disproportionately affect low and lower-middle income residents, the very people who can least afford it during these tough times. Let's hope Quan's latest scheme dies, too. We're glad to see that Council President Jane Brunner and Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente both oppose the idea.
We know that the city could be facing a $65 million shortfall next year, and is contemplating some painful cuts. But the city can't expect residents to pay higher parcel and sales taxes right now. What's frustrating is that no one on the council seems to have the courage to publicly demand that city workers take pay cuts. Yeah, we know that the furloughs amounted to salary cutbacks, but we thought it was a bad idea to save money by shutting down city government.
Instead of pay cuts, the council is focused on layoffs. But why? Why not demand that city unions accept pay cuts instead? If the unions refuse, then we know where their sentiments really are - they would rather see their colleagues lose their jobs than have to give up part of their precious salaries. But I don't think that'll happen. I think given a choice, most city workers would prefer to give up some of their pay, rather than watch their friends end up on the unemployment line. Across the country, unions are making that very choice as we speak. And if Oakland city unions follow suit, the affect on city services could be lessened considerably.