Bay Area voters decide tech industry should pay its dues
The technology industry has turned the Bay Area into an economic powerhouse that many of the world’s most valuable companies call home. But the influx of well-paid tech workers has also clogged the region’s infrastructure and sent housing prices soaring, exacerbating a homelessness crisis on the streets of San Francisco.
In two ballot measures Tuesday that amounted to a regional referendum on how much tech corporations should contribute to the common good, voters in San Francisco and in Google’s hometown of Mountain View decided that some wealth redistribution was in order.
“These companies have more money than God, and it’s fair for them to pay their share above the existing taxes and donations they already make,” said Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel, who spearheaded the successful effort to pass a head tax aimed squarely at Google.
The more contentious referendum was San Francisco’s Proposition C, which adds a new bracket to the city’s tax on gross receipts for companies bringing in more than $50 million a year. It requires that proceeds from the new tax go solely to providing permanent housing, rent support and services for San Franciscans who would otherwise be homeless.
In an analysis, the San Francisco office of the controller estimated that 300 to 400 businesses will be affected by the tax, which will add as much as $300 million a year to the $380 million the city currently spends on services and housing related to homelessness, including rent subsidies and shelters.
“We have tremendous wealth in San Francisco and we have people who are literally dying on our streets,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, who led the effort to pass Proposition C. “It’s a pretty simple equation.”