DeMaio pushes to impose tax twice rejected by voters

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Carl DeMaio likes to style himself as a taxpayer watchdog, largely skipping any effort to implement his policies through his day job as a councilman in favor of going directly to voters. But strangely, a big part of his jobs plan is imposing a tax to pay for expanding the convention center -- without voter approval.

By way of context, any local tax increase is required to face voters to be approved. DeMaio knows this plenty well since he participated in the opposition campaign to Proposition D, which proposed to temporarily raise the city's sales tax. And during his time in San Diego politics, a wide range of tax proposals have been put to voters. So he knows how this works as he tries to sidestep the process.

Given his long experience inside the GOP, it stands to reason that he's also aware that in 2004, San Diegans resoundingly rejected a 2.5% increase of the transient occupancy tax -- twice! The first attempt to raise the TOT was in the March 2004 primary election, and it failed to reach the required 2/3 threshold. In the November general election, voters were even more adamant, defeating the same proposal 58-42.

Between voters explicitly rejecting such a tax and DeMaio opposing taxes no matter what, one would think his position would be clear. But instead, a primary feature of DeMaio's plan for expanding the Convention Center is the imposition of exactly that tax without any voter review or public input.

Scott Lewis recently explained the problem at Voice of San Diego:

The [UT] rightly calls this a tax increase instead of the garbage "self-assessment" language the mayor and other boosters use to describe the way they're doing this. It's a tax hike made possible under a complex agreement of hoteliers to raise their taxes and pass it along to consumers.
The Chargers and hotel workers both — both — believe this is an illegal effort. After all, as the U-T's new publisher knows very well, raising hotel taxes is something only the voters can do.
Whether it's legal remains to be seen. But what's clear is that Carl DeMaio's proposal, included as a feature in his jobs plan, is to impose a tax that voters have twice rejected without any public review. Even more, to impose that tax while running on a platform of no new taxes.
The hypocrisy would be stunning enough, but the brazen nature -- assuming nobody would notice -- is rarified air.