Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/29/2010 06:05:20 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – The three City Council members who form a minority bloc are often on the losing ends of important votes, but they are poised to prevent a proposed sales tax hike from ending up on the November ballot.

Those council members – Wendy McCammack, Chas Kelley and Jason Desjardins – held a press conference Thursday to pledge opposition to the proposed tax hike.

The tax cannot go on the ballot unless five of seven council members vote “yea”, so three votes is enough to kill the proposal.

“Politicians changing the business climate will never, and I mean never create jobs,” McCammack said from a podium set up in front of the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce building on Sixth Street.

The proposed sales tax – which would hike San Bernardino’s sales tax rate by one-half percent to 9.5 percent – was expected to raise about $2.5 million during the 2010-11 fiscal year.

The city’s adopted budget assumes in that new taxes solve part of a projected $24 million deficit. Killing the sales tax would force City Hall to present alternatives.

City Manager Charles McNeely has previously produced a Plan B budget with 15-percent cuts to all city services. That plan would lead to 173 layoffs and cuts to law enforcement, firefighting, libraries and parks.

McNeely did not comment Wednesday on the implications of the council rejecting higher sales taxes because the tax decision is the council’s, not his, city spokeswoman Heather Gray said.

Gray also said McNeely is working on alternatives that may include some proposals included in the Plan B proposal.

The Plan B budget has been called a scare tactic by some, so rejecting sales taxes is in some sense a bet that the most severe cuts were never actually meant to be made.

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