No on San Francisco Proposition E

Prop E sets aside at least $35 million from the hotel tax to arts and culture. It doesn’t change the amount of tax collected, so it strictly redirects money from the General Fund to these purposes (which already receive money from the General Fund). This deprives the city of budget flexibility to address other pressing challenges.

The hotel tax currently goes completely to the General Fund, half of which funds health and human services. 30 percent — and growing — of this is set aside for specific purposes, limiting City Hall’s ability to respond to current priorities. These set-asides date back to 1935, showing how difficult they can be to remove to improve budget flexibility.

Baselines, a.k.a. set-asides, consume an increasing share of the General Fund. Source: SF Controller

Prop E would further gum up the system, permanently redirecting $35 million — 1 percent of the non-set-aside General Fund — toward arts and culture programs that can be funded through the normal budgeting process. Those seeking increased spending on arts and culture can elect leaders who commit to doing so. Forcing budgets into the indefinite future to set aside this money endangers today’s current General Fund spending and limits our ability to fund new and effective programs tomorrow.

Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.

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