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Lightner likely swing vote on today’s decision on sales tax increase

The City Council today will consider putting a temporary half-cent sales tax increase before San Diego voters in November.

Six votes are required to put the sales tax increase on the Nov. 2 ballot, and First Distric Councilwoman Sherri Lightner is the likely swing vote.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer and Councilman Carl DeMaio have both said they are opposed to any sales tax increase. They argue the city should continue to pursue fiscal reforms rather than raise taxes now.

The ballot proposal was advanced by City Council President Ben Hueso, who has said new revenues are needed to prevent the further deterioration of city services, especially public safety, due to ongoing budget shortfalls.

Councilwoman Mari Emerald has joined Hueso in advocating for the sales tax increase. While not officially endorsing the idea, Council members Tony Young, Todd Gloria and Donna Frye have all talked about the need for more revenue.

If the City Council agrees to put the proposal on the ballot, and San Diego voters approve it, the city’s sales tax would go from 8.75 percent to 9.25 percent.

A half-cent sales tax increase would generate $103 million annually, according to Independent Budget Analyst Andrea Tevlin.

Nearly two weeks ago, Mayor Jerry Sanders, under pressure from fellow Republicans and business groups, abandoned his proposal to ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax hike as one of several options to help solve San Diego’s budget woes.

The idea of a sales tax increase gained momentum last week after San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Javier Mainar said emergency services cuts may have played a role in the death of a toddler who choked on a gumball.

Due to the city’s “brownout” program, which idles fire engines on a rotating basis, it took firefighters 9 1/2 minutes to respond to a 911 call that a child was choking at his Mira Mesa home on Tuesday. Despite efforts to save him, 2-year-old Bentley Do was later pronounced dead at a hospital.