Feb 20, 2024 - News

Explaining the "cop tax"on San Francisco’s March ballot

Photo of Matt Dorsey and London Breed speaking from a podium

San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey, next to Mayor London Breed, speaks at police headquarters in 2022. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

​​A ballot measure meant to address San Francisco's police shortage is now facing an opposition campaign from the city official who first proposed it.

Why it matters: Proposition B asks voters to decide on a charter amendment that would allow the city to expand police staffing but fund it through an unspecified "future tax" on residents because of the city's current fiscal crisis.

Driving the news: Supervisor Matt Dorsey (District 6) — who originally pitched the idea — launched a "No on B, Stop the Cop Tax" campaign to urge voters to reject it in the March 5 election.

  • New campaign ads feature SF Police Officers Association president Tracy McCray and community leader Lily Ho, who serves on the board of the public safety advocacy organization Stop Crime SF.

How it happened: Dorsey's initial version of the measure would add around 100 police officers per year and offer $75,000 signing bonuses to enable the department to reach a minimum of 2,074 officers within five years.

Reality check: The Controller's Office estimated it could cost the city from $120 million to $300 million.

To address the cost, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí (District 11) added an amendment to delay funding for the staffing until voters approved another, yet unwritten, ballot measure that would add a tax.

  • Dorsey, who condemned the move as unethical, ultimately withdrew support for the measure, as did Mayor London Breed.
  • Yes, but: The Board of Supervisors voted 6–5 in November to advance it to the March ballot.

What they're saying: At a press conference Thursday, Dorsey criticized Safaí for turning his proposal into a "poison pill" meant to extort San Franciscans.

  • "At the eleventh hour, there was a scheme to say, 'We're going to adopt all of this, but none of that will take place until and unless voters enact new taxes for additional revenue,'" he said.
  • Dorsey emphasized that the "tax hike" could risk lawsuits that further delay police funding. He also challenged Safaí to a debate so voters know "the truth about Prop. B."

The other side: Dorsey's claim is "just false and misleading election year rhetoric," Rudy Gonzalez, a leader in the Yes on B Committee, told Axios via email. "This measure sets minimum policing standards, requires City Hall to identify the revenue source and allows voters to approve."

  • Safaí has said that hiring mandates need identified funding and should not come at the cost of other public safety workers' jobs, especially with the city facing a half-billion-dollar budget deficit.
  • Safaí did not return Axios' request for comment but posted a response on X agreeing to "happily debate" Dorsey and Breed.

Of note: The "No on B" campaign is endorsed by Breed, Supervisor Joel Engardio (District 4) and state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

  • Safaí's amendment was backed by organized labor under the "Safer Smarter SF" campaign.

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