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Manufacturing Tax Qualifies for November Ballot

Proposal for manufacturer's fee in Richmond advances

By Katherine Tam

Staff Writer

Article Launched: 04/08/2008 03:26:38 AM PDT


A proposal for a new Richmond manufacturer's fee that would generate millions a year for city coffers is back, and voters likely will decide its fate in November's election.

The Richmond Progressive Alliance, which is made up mostly of Green Party members and Democrats, turned in 5,309 signatures, far more than the 3,570 required.

The petition carries enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the Nov. 4 ballot, City Clerk Diane Holmes said Monday. City and county election officials counted the signatures, then checked a random sampling to make sure there were enough unduplicated signatures that correspond to living Richmond residents.

The City Council is scheduled to consider adopting a resolution June 24 to formally put the measure on the ballot, an action that is considered a fairly routine step.

Under the proposed initiative, manufacturers would pay a quarter-percent of the value of the raw materials they use each year, if it is more than the annual business license fee they pay now. That's expected to generate $16 million a year for the city's general fund, which pays for police, roads, parks and other public services.

Companies should pay their "fair share" for operating in Richmond to help offset impacts such as air emissions, backers of the initiative say.

"This measure is based on a basic sense of fairness that says that the citizens of a city have the right to decide what is required for a business, for different businesses, to operate

in their city," supporter Juan Reardon said. "The negative impacts that certain industries bring in to a community must be regulated, and the negative impacts must also be compensated."

Opponents contend that the measure could hurt Richmond in the long run.

Representatives of the Chevron Richmond refinery, which would pay millions in a manufacturer's fee because it processes 257,000 barrels of crude oil a day, are evaluating the initiative. But spokeswoman Camille Priselac said the proposal would "hinder economic development and discourage new businesses and jobs from coming to the city of Richmond."

Manufacturers would be exempt from the proposed fee for up to the first 18 months. Businesses would benefit from a city with bolstered public services, Reardon said.

The proposal bears some similarities to Measure T, which failed in 2006, receiving the approval of 42 percent of voters.

Like Measure T, the new proposal would set a fee for raw materials brought in for manufacturing, thereby generating millions for the city's general fund. But the new proposal would require manufacturers to pay twice as much as Measure T had proposed. And unlike Measure T, the new proposal would not increase business license fees or affect nonmanufacturers, apartment landlords or small businesses.

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com.