Measure G-20 is on the Nov. 3 ballot. It asks SLO City voters to approve a 1% increase in the local sales tax rate. Approval requires a simple majority of 50% + 1.
The way out of a crisis is decisive action at the local level. We can’t wait for Washington or Sacramento to help us, and we don’t want them telling us what to do. Now more than ever, we need to lean in, support one another, invest in our community and achieve our shared goals.
An added penny on the sales tax rate, much of it paid by visitors, is intended to protect our city from COVID-related economic deterioration, which will further degrade the business environment and make recovery much harder. For this reason, the SLO Chamber of Commerce and Downtown SLO are supporting the measure.
Let’s say you buy $50 worth of goods at the hardware store. You will pay an additional 50 cents in sales tax. A mere penny on the dollar.
Yes. An analysis of 2018-19 tax data, the most recent available, shows that about 70% of sales tax is generated by visitors to the city, and the rest by residents. While that ratio is sure to change because of the pandemic, it’s safe to say that visitors will continue to pay their fair share for using our public safety services, well-paved streets, clean parks and open spaces.
Measure G-20 will raise an estimated $20 million annually. It will help protect the City’s financial stability, and help the City do the following, which are priorities that citizens have said are of paramount importance to them:
The requested increase is a penny on the dollar. If approved, Measure G-20 would continue the existing half-percent local sales tax and add a penny on the dollar to bring the total local rate to 1½%.
If Measure G-20 is approved, the sales tax will be 8.75%, which breaks down this way:
Yes. This rate is comparable to dozens of other California cities, including regional competitors like Monterey (9.75%) and Santa Barbara (8.75%). Also, Measure G-20’s neat increase of a penny on the dollar is similar to measures being proposed in nearly all other SLO County cities.
There is zero evidence that this sales tax rate would harm businesses. It’s telling that two of the City’s leading business organizations – the SLO Chamber of Commerce and Downtown SLO – support Measure G-20.
Also, without Measure G-20, businesses will have a much poorer operating environment if the City has to make cuts in services such as public safety, street and sidewalk maintenance and health and safety preparedness.
Absolutely not. Measure G-20 is a classic self-help strategy. There is no help coming from the state or the federal governments. We have to help ourselves. This money will remain in the City under local control. It does not get sent to Sacramento, nor can the State take it away as it has done with other locally generated tax revenues. And if the City Council does not spend this money wisely, voters can rescind the tax.
While Measure G-20 is a general-purpose measure, there are very strong transparency and accountability provisions to assure that the money is properly spent on top community priorities.
These include setting priorities through a community goal-setting process, independent audits of actual receipts and spending, annual community meetings, regular written reports and strong oversight by a citizens’ oversight committee.
Some might be concerned that Measure G-20 is regressive. But it’s worth noting that Measure G-20 will support programs that might otherwise be unaffordable.
In practice, here’s how Measure G-20 will work: If a family spends $25 at the hardware store, the extra tax will be a mere 25 cents. Spread across all visitors and residents, those pennies add up fast and support programs like the city’s after-school child care, which can save that same family hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, compared to the cost of private child care services.
Additionally, Measure G-20 will support affordable housing and mental-health services as well as support local nonprofits like the Food Bank, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Peoples' Self Help Housing, the Noor Foundations, Stand Strong and Transitions Mental Health Association that provide critical assistance to low income community members.
Finally, essential purchases like groceries, prescription medications & medical devices, gasoline, utilities and housing are exempt from sales tax.
City governments all over the country are dealing with these issues. San Luis Obispo is in better shape than many thanks to recent pension reforms adopted and implemented by the City.
It’s worth noting that the current City Council and administration have worked aggressively to reduce pension obligations and continue to be prudent on matters relating to payroll.
The City also has relatively low retiree health care costs that are fully funded on an actuarial basis, per independently audited figures.
Further, all City employees have agreed in recent years to significant concessions that are saving the City millions of dollars annually.
Finally, the Citizens’ Oversight Committee will ensure not only that Measure G money is spent as promised, but also make sure that the City develops plans to forthrightly address long-term personnel costs.
This is an important part of Measure G, one that we as SLO Citizens for Measure G have advocated for and strongly insist on.