With the clock ticking toward a final deadline, the Palo Alto City Council has again postponed a decision on creating a business tax in hopes of reaching a last-minute compromise with a coalition of opposition parties.
Congress has until August 12th to submit a resolution to Santa Clara County to impose a business tax on the November ballot. To meet this deadline, council members voted to schedule a special meeting for Wednesday night. They also plan to take action on another measure that reaffirms the city’s historic practice of transferring funds from gas utilities to the General Fund.
Council members have been debating the business tax for more than four years and have had three opportunities to put the item to a vote before Monday’s meeting, each time choosing to punt. At each meeting, council members voiced their concerns about the opposition from the business community and followed it up by amending the business tax proposals in hopes of moving closer to consensus.
The pattern continued on Monday night, when Congress added another provision to the proposed tax. That is to cap the amount a company can pay out at $1 million. But despite repeated attempts to negotiate a ceasefire with the business coalition, there were few signs of reaching a compromise on Monday. was clearly non-committal about the change of position. Meanwhile, some council members have shown that their patience has reached its limits.
Council member Tom Dubois said he serves on an ad hoc committee that has tried to negotiate with the business community, saying: It was hardly receptive.
He pointed to the difficulty of negotiating with opponents. He argued that some partners in the business group would likely not support any level of the tax.
DuBois supported the introduction of a business tax in the November vote, along the lines the council backed in its last debate on August 1. The tax rate is $0.11 per square foot, exempting all businesses with 10,000 square feet. Space below feet.
Deputy Mayor Lydia Kou and City Councilman Greer Stone both agreed, suggesting that a decision be made sooner or later. Mayor Pat Burt and City Councilman Eric Philses, both serving on the special committee, acknowledged the deal was very likely, but gave the company one last chance to come to the negotiating table. have chosen to give At Bart’s request, the council voted 5 to 2 for him, with council members Allison Cormack and Greg Tanaka dissenting, and scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday night, where the council would seek a compromise, costly Allowing you to have one last chance to avoid anti-tax campaigns. .
Burt pointed out that recent poll results suggest the vote on the business tax may be a close one. He also said that if the city doesn’t lower the proposed tax rate to $0.60 per square foot, their coalition will campaign to defeat both the business tax and the gas transfer measure, according to business leaders. said to have suggested.
Bert said the council’s real choices are “not what we want, but what we can achieve.”
“I am one of the strongest proponents of this business tax and I will consider compromise because if it fails, I risk having nothing and being unable to reach voters for years. because they are,” said Bart. “It’s a bird in hand and he in a bush is not two birds. A bird in hand and a rattlesnake in a bush.”
But Bart’s interactions with rival coalition leaders have left some of his colleagues discouraged by the compromise. Chamber of Commerce chairman Charlie Wydanz opposed the proposed measure and called on the council not to proceed with it. repeatedly denied the accusations.
“The council only had serious conversations with members of the business community after previous polls showed a drop in support for the level of business tax the council was considering,” Kostenbauder said. It’s a pity,” he said.
When Burt repeatedly asked him and Weidanz if they were willing to continue negotiations, neither committed to making meaningful changes to the business group’s proposal.
“We want to have those conversations, but we don’t set expectations that the numbers will change from where they are now,” Kostenbauder said.
Wydanz was also reluctant to commit to further revisions, suggesting that the status of members of his organization appeared to be fixed as of Monday afternoon. It argued that the business tax rate charged by the community far exceeds the tax rate charged by other communities.
“We want Palo Alto to remain competitive and a preferred location for businesses to locate compared to neighboring jurisdictions. We hope that it will allow us to focus on the challenges of getting through this difficult time,” Wydanz said. .
Some residents and city councilors were reluctant to what they characterized as an uncompromising stance from the Union. Deputy mayor Lydia Kou called their position “extremely frustrating” and urged her colleagues not to leave decisions affecting local quality of life to big business representatives.
“I heard that the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and Chamber of Commerce have decided and declared that they will oversee the quality of life for Palo Alto residents.
Stone said he was surprised by the interaction between Bart and the business leader and the business leader’s reluctance to negotiate. The council’s first proposal for a business tax would have raised about $45 million a year. The current one has raised about $16.5 million and has more exemptions and lower tax rates than originally planned. Stone argued that the council had compromised enough that the tax should go ahead.
“I can’t think of anyone I’ve talked to beyond the business world who is really against the business tax,” Stone said. “I understand that. No one wants to pay taxes, but these critical services do.”
A majority of the council agreed to postpone a final decision on Wednesday, but DuBois, Kou and Stone all voted against further amending the business tax at that time. We will also consider whether to include the Gas Transfer Bill in the monthly ballot.
Cormack, who supports the utility bill, has consistently advocated lowering business taxes. She was more optimistic about reaching an agreement with business leaders, and said the council’s delay in voting creates “the possibility of a comprehensive agreement.”
“Nobody wants this to be an ugly fight,” said Cormac.
Others, however, viewed the business world’s position as excessive. Businesses will benefit greatly from being based in Palo Alto, said Julie Riscott-Hymes, who is running for city council. Therefore, they should contribute to helping the city make necessary investments in services and infrastructure. The council’s plan calls for funds raised from the business tax to go into three areas: affordable housing, improved railroad crossings, and public safety.
“These are VCs and tech companies and big retailers who can afford it,” Lythcott-Haims said. “We need proper business taxes, not bake sales, to raise the money our city desperately needs and citizens deserve.”
Rail improvement advocate Nadia Naik said many in the community were upset that big companies didn’t pay their fair share for city services. Resident Winter Derenbach urged the council not to make any further concessions to the business community.
“This is not a negotiation. This is a holdup,” Derenbach said.