This time, Newsom played a different role.
The San Francisco Mayor stayed true to his word and on Tuesday vetoed a preliminary approved vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to place a tax on alcohol in an effort to cover city costs resulting from alcohol abuse.
Then on Wednesday, Newsom said he has officially abandoned plans to charge retailers a tax for sodas, citing that he knows the city will be sued.
In both situations, whatever his reasoning, Newsom got it right.
He understood that the fee would hurt jobs in the city’s biggest industry and steps on the state’s authority to regulate alcohol.
“On behalf of San Francisco’s bar and restaurant owners and employees, we thank Mayor Newsom for his courageous action by vetoing this constitutionally-challenged proposal,” said Kassy Perry of the California Alliance for Hospitality Jobs (CAHJ) in a release.
“Members of San Francisco’s restaurant, hotel, bar, brewery and retail communities worked hard to let the Supervisors know that the hospitality industry has been among the hardest hit by the economic crisis and simply cannot afford to absorb new costs brought on by the proposed alcohol fee. We’re glad that the Mayor had enough sense to act on behalf of the employees and employers that drive San Francisco’s economy and veto this measure.”
Officials at the city, state and federal government level need to back away from the mindless notion that “sin taxes” are either morally or economically logical. It’s easy to find public support when you single out a faction that can be looked down upon as taking part in immoral behaviors, forgetting about individual rights or the ability for the public to make its own moral judgments.
But the truth is that sin taxes need to be resisted on both moral and economic grounds. By taxing products that are overwhelmingly purchased by those with lower incomes, it effectively amounts to a regressive tax, or a tax paid for by lower income individuals.
Government decision-makers need to stop setting smokescreens to distract from the true economic issues. You can only put so many band-aids over an open wound before you realize it’s probably time to see a doctor.
However, even after the veto, San Francisco supervisor John Avalos (author of the vetoed alcohol tax) said he plans to go directly to the voters.
“Maybe we go to the ballot,” Avalos told the Chronicle. “There’s a lot of people who think this a good idea.”
A “lot of people” thought New Coke was a good idea too.
Luckily, Newsom understood the bigger picture.
James Spencer can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @publicceo