Tax break for hiring felons in San Francisco pitched as crime cutter 

click to enlarge Tax breaks would help San Francisco companies that employ former lawbreakers. - EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Examiner file photo
  • Tax breaks would help San Francisco companies that employ former lawbreakers.

In recent years, The City has created payroll tax breaks for biotech companies, businesses that move to the mid-Market area and stock options of companies that go public.

Next up: a tax break for hiring ex-offenders.

Ensuring that people coming out of jail can obtain jobs is one way to keep these ex-offenders from ending up right back behind bars. That’s why Supervisor and Sheriff-elect Ross Mirkarimi wants to offer a tax break to businesses that hire them.

The proposal, which will go before the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday, would provide a $10,125 tax break per full-time ex-offender hired, or $5,062 for a part-time ex-offender.

The two-year pilot program would be available to businesses with payrolls of at least $675,000 annually, which accounts for about 5,000 San Francisco businesses.

The Small Business Commission voted unanimously Nov. 14 to support the legislation.

“I will be delighted to see if it does work,” said Chairman Luke O’Brien. While admitting that he is not inclined to believe that something like this will work, O’Brien said he is willing to support the pilot since they can revisit its effectiveness after two years.

The proposal was criticized by Mirkarimi’s challengers in the Nov. 8 sheriff’s race, who said it was favoring lawbreakers over victims.

“It got a little politicized because it happened during the campaign,” Mirkarimi said. “Some had suggested that this was putting criminals before victims, which it does not. I do see this as crime prevention. And many victims have been incarcerated too, which happens to be a very high number.”

San Francisco would not be the first to offer such an incentive. Philadelphia implemented a similar program in 2007. Since then, 12 businesses have applied and received a combined $120,000 in tax breaks. Illinois, Iowa and Maryland offer such tax breaks as well.

While The City would lose some $10,000 per ex-offender hired after being employed for six months, it costs San Francisco $46,720 a year to keep someone in jail.

Mirkarimi said the pilot program will help The City understand what it can do to keep ex-offenders from re-offending.

“Not doing anything for this population is inexcusable,” he said.

If approved by the budget committee Wednesday, the full board would vote on it next week.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

 

Saving money by giving ex-cons jobs

Proposal offers payroll tax break to businesses that hire ex-offenders:

- $10,125: Payroll tax break for hiring an ex-offender full time

- $5,062: Payroll tax break for hiring an ex-offender part time

- $128: Cost per day of inmate in county jail

- 5,000: Businesses that could qualify

Source: Budget Analyst Harvey Rose

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