Alameda’s Measure P

Measure P, which Alamedans will vote on in a few short weeks, would increase the city’s property transfer tax, the tax paid to the city when a property is bought or sold. Currently the tax is $5.40 per $1,000 property value. Measure P would raise it to $12 per $1,000. Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson has a pro-P opinion piece in today’s Alameda Journal.

The Mayor’s argument is pretty straight-forward: The city has already been cutting, police and fire costs are two thirds of the city’s budget, and without a cash infusion the city may have to begin trimming those areas nearest and dearest to people’s hearts…in addition to the cuts that have already been made, the maintenance that has already been deferred and the library hours that have already been cut. Those who oppose P have a pretty well-funded campaign against (with chart and graphs and everything).

Back story: Before putting P on the ballot, the city did some polling to see what was most likely to win approval from the voters, and this transfer tax increase is what was seen as most likely to pass. Really, it’s the same old story: if you want services, they must be paid for.

[Ed. note: The Journal also has this editorial about P.]


  • Jill

    I agree that if we need services, we need to pay for them. But to place the entire burden for the budget shortfall on a few hundred people who will buy or sell a house is just unfair. Everyone – renters and homeowners alike – uses services, and the tax that most evenly distributes the burden is sales tax. I am perfectly willing to pay my fair share for services by raising the sales tax, but this seems to be a political hot potato.

    Some people say sales tax is “regressive,” falling disproportionately on the poor. I respectfully disagree. There are certain things that everyone needs to pay for: groceries, utilities, and housing. I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that these things are not subject to sales tax. Restaurant food is taxed, but presumably people who are truly impoverished are not dining out with any regularity.

    Aside from those things, clothing is the only true essential that springs to mind. If someone spends $1000 a year on clothes (which seems like a lot for someone who is considered poor), they will only pay an additional $10 if sales tax is raised 1% – and I expect the amount of the sales tax increase would be less than 1%.

    Anyone who can afford to buy non-essential”stuff” should be willing to contribute to paying for the services from which they benefit.

    So why is everyone so afraid of increasing sales tax?

  • Lon

    Our leaders in Alameda seem to prefer ‘targeting’ taxes so that voters see it as somebody else’s problem, voting yes knowing a limited number of ‘other’ residents will pay and not them, increasing the chances of it passing, but also making it unfair.

    One argument for P stated ‘make those wanting to move here pay for the privelige’ – not sure that is real in this market – the seller will probably have to cover at least part of it to make the sale. But who cares, he or she is leaving. But what about those moving within the city (like I did once, and my wife did when we got married) when faced with a change in family size – they get dinged twice? And why tax a declining item? House sales and prices are down and falling, making it doubtful the needed return on the tax will actually happen until the economy rebounds making it not neccessary (but certainly not rescended).

    I agree, taxes should be shared by everyone as the price of civilization. A sales tax, a standard parcel tax with no exceptions, something across the board. But our elected officials don’t seem to agree, or can’t make the sale strait up. So they lead by polls.