Oakland City Council Unanimously Places Final, Unified Progressive Business Tax on November Ballot

At a Special City Council meeting on Thursday, May 26, Oakland City Council voted unanimously to place a measure on the November ballot to establish a progressive business tax structure in which businesses that make more, pay more. Voters will consider the proposal – first introduced and led over the last two years by Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Fife, Thao, and Kalb – to modernize Oakland's outdated business tax structure (last updated in 2005), which would raise nearly $22M annually in new general fund revenue to strengthen critical city services to address homelessness and keep our streets clean and safe.

See Council President Bas' summary presentation today to learn more about the measure.

Final, Unified Proposal Among Elected, Business, Labor & Community Groups

This proposal is a reflection of over two years of consensus-building and input among Oakland elected officials, businesses of all sizes, labor unions, and community groups.

Today's final measure will be the single, unified proposal for consideration by voters in November, thus avoiding a prior scenario where several competing initiatives to restructure Oakland's business tax would have been placed on the ballot. The final proposal:

  • Makes the tax structure more fair and equitable by creating a tiered, progressive structure so businesses that make more, pay more;

  • Raises nearly $22 million in new annual revenue for critical city services;

  • ensures Oakland's smallest businesses receive permanent tax relief;

  • protects against significant job loss; and

  • maintains the city's ability to attract and retain businesses of all types and sizes.

“Oakland is united. Groups with different points of view came together to solve the problem of raising resources to improve our City,” said Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas, lead author of the legislation. “The investment in modernizing our business tax will pay off in better services for our families, children, elders and our business community, leading us toward a more equitable Oakland for all.”

Councilmember Carroll Fife said, “Today is a win for Oakland and the beginning of a new era. We are putting Oakland visitors, residents and small businesses first, and this collaborative effort is evidence of significant steps forward. If this coalition can come together for our city, I am confident the voters of Oakland will too.”

“We can put the city of Oakland first today,” said Coucilmember Sheng Thao, who brought together the proponents of the two competing ballot measures to reach agreement. “We are all agreeing that these rates will put the City first, put its residents first, and put the ecosystem of Oakland first; and not just that, but create a climate for Oakland to grow, prosper, and attract new businesses.”

Zac Unger, President of Oakland Firefighters Local 55, said, "Oakland residents and businesses will benefit from a modern, progressive business tax system. By modernizing our business tax structure, we can make sure the citizens of Oakland have the vital city services that they need to improve our parks, provide public safety, and keep our communities clean.”

“If you care about the homeless residents in your neighborhood or across town who need services; about public safety in our city, our violence prevention programs; about the tremendous amount of illegal dumping in many of our neighborhoods; about making sure our youth have more programs and services; this measure will provide resources to help make that happen,” said Councilmember Dan Kalb. “This is the opportunity to provide more resources to improve, protect and expand the services that Oaklanders are rightfully demanding.”

“As we come together in consolidated efforts and shared understanding to advance the condition of Oakland residents, we enter the intersection of morality and the care for the least among us, understanding that income is unevenly distributed in our communities,” said Saabir Lockett, Director of Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy at East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy. “A modern, progressive business tax system will allow us to invest in our neighborhoods, help those most in need, and create a strong community serving small businesses.”

If the Progressive & Equitable Business Tax Measure receives 50%+1 support from voters this November, it will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

With Councilmembers Bas, Fife, Thao, and Kalb, the final proposal was co-crafted in partnership with: Oaklanders Together, a coalition of Oakland's small and large businesses, Business Improvement Districts, business-serving organizations, and Chambers of Commerce representing thousands of businesses in every district across the city, including the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce; and the Invest in Our Oakland Coalition, comprised of labor unions, community organizations, and small businesses, including SEIU Local 1021, IFPTE Local 21, IAFF Local 55, ACCE, East Bay Action, APTP, CURYJ, Parent Voices Oakland, Oakland Rising, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy, Causa Justa: Just Cause, AFSCME Local 3299, Peralta Federation of Teachers Local 1603, Unite Here Local 2850, Oakland Education Association, Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives, East Bay DSA, and the Sierra Club. The co-authors also engaged businesses of all sizes, business associations, community groups, unions, and residents over the past two years.


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