Bill Whalen: Politi-Cal

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Newsom: Fees Don’t Fail Me Now

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It’s not a death-bed conversion, because he stands a good chance of winning his race. That said, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s insistence upon vetoing a proposed citywide alcohol fee to pay for the cost of treating alcoholics is notable.

Newsom (l) spares wine and beer & spirits lovers

First, it shows the fine line that Newsom walks in his quest to replace Republican incumbent Abel Maldonado as California’s lieutenant governor.

The mayor’s record — indeed, his city itself — is subject to scrutiny. Hence, Newsom’s select visibility in city politics the past several months.

Second, it spares Newsom from the potentially negative fallout of an “only in Ess Eff” story.

If approved, San Francisco would be the first city in the country to go down this road (an increase of roughly 3 cents on a glass or beer; 4-5 cents for a glass or wine or hard liquor — translated another way: 35 cents for every gallon of beer; $1 for a gallon of wine; $3.20 for a gallon of hard liquor.

It’s hardly a bragging point, and only serves to point out San Francisco’s other oddities that don’t play well in other parts of California: the sanctuary city ordinance, the plastic-bag ban, the $500 fines for failing to compost food scraps, to name but three.

(Here’s a particularly grim assessment of “Babylon by the Bay”, courtesy of SF Weekly . . .) 

Third, it shows the difference between campaigning and governing as far as California Democrats and fiscal policy intersect in this particular election cycle.

No serious contender will walk the Phil Angelides gangplank. The closest we’ve come to any talk of new taxes is Jerry Brown’s too-cute-by-half promise that he won’t do it . . . not without voter approval.

Now along comes Newsom, promising to kill the alcohol fee. It’s a convenient campaign pose. Problem is, it’s not the Democratic impulse east along the I-80, over in Sacramento.

Faced with a $19.1 billion budget, Assembly Democrats two weeks ago floated the following scheme:  higher income taxes and a lower sales tax (i.e., class warfare), a new levy on oil production, an increase in vehicle-registration fees and a suspension of corporate tax breaks.

Back in May, and trying to come up with the math to justify $9 billion in new bonds, Assembly Democrats talked about paying for their plan with money collected from fees that beverage distributors pay to the Golden State. Which was similar to another spending scheme back in 2009 that included a user fee on gasoline. 

One wonder what Newsom would do if, as acting governor, an increase in the VLF landed on his desk (you’ll “recall” that it didn’t do much for Gray Davis’ fortunes). Does this mean that the Democratic lite guv hopeful is reflexively opposed to higher service fees as a budget gimmick, as his SF alcohol stand would indicate or, once sent to Sacramento, would he go with the flow?

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Written by Bill Whalen

September 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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