A Board of Supervisors committee has recommended that San Francisco offer a tax break to city employees whose same-sex partners are covered on their health insurance policy.
At its meeting today (Wednesday, February 6) the Budget and Finance Committee unanimously voted to support the idea proposed by committee chair District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell. Prior to the vote, Supervisors John Avalos (D11) and Eric Mar (D1) announced they had decided to become co-sponsors of the ordinance.
As noted in the Bay Area Reporter’s Political Notebook column last week, city employees face a penalty for federal income tax purposes when they add their partner or spouse to their city-provided health care coverage due to the fact that federal law does not recognize the marriages of same-sex couples.
Therefore, the Internal Revenue Service treats any employer contributions for a same-sex partner’s or spouse’s health insurance premiums as taxable income. Such households can face tax bills of several thousand dollars due to the federal anti-gay law known as the Defense of Marriage Act.
It is estimated it would cost the city slightly more than $500,000 to cover the tax bills incurred by the more than 350 same-sex spouses and/or same-sex domestic partners enrolled in the city’s Health Service System.
Under the proposed ordinance the city would pay 20 percent of the portion of the employee’s health insurance premiums attributable to the same-sex spouse or partner.
The full board is expected to vote on the tax relief policy at its February 26 meeting. It is expected to pass, as it needs a simple majority, or six votes, for adoption.
With the decision by Mar and Avalos today, six supervisors are now co-sponsors of the ordinance. Gay Supervisors David Campos (D9) and Scott Wiener (D8) were already co-sponsors, as was District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu, who sits on the Health Service System Commission.
While Mayor Ed Lee announced this morning that he had decided to name Chu as the city’s assessor-recorder, she is not expected to be sworn into the position until sometime in March after her successor for her supervisor seat is picked. By delaying a decision to name Chu’s replacement, the person could serve as D4 supervisor for 10 years instead of the term-limited eight years since they would serve less than half of Chu’s second-term.
“Carmen Chu will lead the Assessor-Recorder’s office with the same level of budgetary expertise and fiscal prudence she demonstrated when she provided the leadership needed to develop the City’s first two-year budget, balance a $6.8 billion annual city budget and close budget shortfalls of $380 million,” stated Lee. “Carmen’s exemplary budgetary skills as Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee of the Board of Supervisors have benefited the entire City and she shares my values of equity, efficiency and responsiveness to all San Francisco residents.”
Both Chu and her replacement will be required to seek election to fill out the remainder of their terms, which expire in January of 2015, on the ballot this November. Contests for full four-year terms for assessor and D4 supervisor will take place on the November 2014 ballot.
Since former Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting stepped down late last year to become a state assemblyman, his top deputy, out lesbian Zoon Nguyen, had been serving in the position. She is believed to be the first LGBT person to be the city’s assessor-recorder.
In December Nguyen told the B.A.R. that she did not plan to run for the position at the ballot box.