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News + PoliticsElectionsInitiative would tax Amazon et al. to fund SF guaranteed income program

Initiative would tax Amazon et al. to fund SF guaranteed income program

Early polling shows strong support for the concept.

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TODCO, the affordable housing and advocacy group, is promoting a ballot measure that would tax e-commerce giants to pay for a guaranteed income program for low income people in San Francisco.

The organization has filed an intent to circulate petitions, and will need to collect about 9,000 valid signatures to put it on the ballot.

Workers protest conditions at an Amazon distribution center. Fibonacci Blue photo from Wikimedia Commons

Initial polling looks very positive: A poll from early January by David Binder and Associates found that almost 70 percent of people likely to vote in November favor the idea of a guaranteed-income program funded by a tax on the likes of Amazon.

Technically, the tax would triple the gross receipts tax on internet retail sales delivered from warehouses. Companies with less than $10 miollion in sales local brick-and-mortar retail businesses would be exempt, even if they shipped products to customers.

The tax would bring in as much as $25 million a year, which would go to a guaranteed-income program for low-income San Franciscans.

The Board of Supes would finalize the details of the program—who is eligible and how it would be administered­—after a community process.

The measure would have two significant impacts: It would help local businesses by making Amazon products a bit more expensive, and it would provide a stable, permanent source of funding for a basic income program.

The pool shows that 72 percent of likely voters favor the idea of a guaranteed income for vulnerable San Franciscans.

From the declaration of intent to circulate petitions:

At the same time huge internet retailers like Amazon take business away from local stores, paying their workers low wages while making their owners like Jeff Bezos incredibly rich, they dodge paying their fair share of taxes and helping those small businesses and residents of our communities to survive. The E-Commerce Equity Tax and required San Francisco Guaranteed Income Program proposed by this initiative ordinance will begin to correct this destructive economic injustice by setting E-Commerce companies’ local business tax at the level other warehouse companies pay, instead of the much lower rate local brick-and mortar shops do, and directing those added revenues to the needs of working class people on the edge of poverty and homelessness struggling to make ends meet … E-commerce has already put many local shops and small retailers out of business. This hurts our neighborhoods and even downtown, and cuts jobs for City workers – and it has accelerated thanks to the Covid pandemic! San Francisco needs to lead the way to a future balanced and fair economy and society in America. The E-Commerce Equity Tax will be a Big First Step in that direction.

It will be fascinating to see what happens when Amazon starts pouring big money into defeating this—and which SF politicians line up on the side of Jeff Bezos.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.

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