Are San Francisco voters willing to open their wallets a little bit wider to upgrade the city's strained transit network and fund new Navigation Centers? We'll find out with Propositions J and K, a pair of measures promising to address two of the city's most pressing concerns: transportation and homelessness.
Proposition K hikes the city's sales tax by three-quarters of a percentage point -- to 9.25 percent (note: the local sales tax rate is currently 8.75 percent, but will drop to 8.5 percent next year if the tax hike is not passed). The money generated would go into the city's general fund. The increase would expire after 25 years.
If K passes, then Proposition J would divvy up the new funds -- setting aside $100 million per year to improve streets, bike paths and Muni vehicles and $50 million per year for homeless housing and services.
Mayor Ed Lee backs both measures, as do a wide range of people and organizations often at odds with the mayor -- including the Coalition on Homelessness, Mission District Supervisor David Campos and Supervisor John Avalos, whose district includes the Excelsior, Ingleside and the Outer Mission.
Although opposition to the measures has been fairly muted, Supervisors Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin and Norman Yee voted against putting the sales tax hike on the ballot. Critics say the tax is a regressive step that would unfairly burden low-income families. Opponents also point out that the budget set-asides in Proposition J lock in future spending and could hamper the city's ability to adapt to changing needs and priorities.
Even if voters approve boosting the sales tax rate to 9.25 percent, it would not be the highest in the Bay Area. Albany, El Cerrito, Hayward, San Leandro and Union City all have local rates of 10 percent, and voters in several other cities are considering sales tax hikes this November.