'Consumers don't pay': Saleforce's Benioff talks Proposition C, homeless issues in San Francisco at ABC7

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018
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Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is a big proponent of Prop C and he joined us in studio with a look at the problems.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As part of our effort on Building a Better Bay Area, we're taking a closer look at the homeless problem in San Francisco. One possible solution is Proposition C on the Nov. 6 ballot.

RELATED: Prop C: Taxing big businesses to help SF homeless

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is a big proponent of Prop C and he joined us in studio with a look at the problems.

As a fourth generation San Franciscan on both sides of his family, Benioff spoke to the homeless issue being most noticeable when tourists come to the city.

Benioff: "You bring people in from out of town and what's the first thing they say to you?"

Ashley: "I just had somebody visiting the other day visiting say, 'We won't come back.' It's intimidating, it's scary."

But has the problem gotten worse over the years? We asked him how he's seen it change over the years.

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"Well first of all you have homeless families that have kids. So 1,200 homeless families with children. We just funded a philanthropic project. We found a mother living in one of our forests here in San Francisco with a 9-year-old child without shoes. It's just shocking that in our city, with such incredible wealth, that we have this disparity. It's a crisis of inequality."

Benioff says the problem isn't money. When you look at the money spent in relation to the size of the problem, he notes that the city is not spending more money on this issue.

RELATED: Saleforce's Marc Benioff pushes for Proposition C in San Francisco

"You can kind of look at that as an example - like homeless families. We know, after running programs in the city for seven years now, you can get a homeless family off the street. We've created a series of shelters in the city for women-led families. Through those shelters we've moved hundreds of families off the streets. But it costs about $35,000 to $50,000 per homeless family to get them off the street. Or about $30 million or $40 million. That's why we just raised that privately."

So what is Proposition C? Well, it would tax a select group of businesses, about 400, that make more than $50 million in revenue.

Noting that his company is the biggest employer in San Francisco, Benioff says, "Big business pays, consumers don't pay."

He went on to say, "You look at these huge companies and the wealth that has been created on the back of San Francisco. Well, they haven't given a lot of money, they haven't given money to our public schools, public hospitals or homeless. This is going to be new for them, but Prop C means the people who made the most money in San Francisco are going to pay the most."

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When told one could alternatively say that the companies have also contributed to the city in terms of employment and taxes paid, Benioff said there's another way to look at it - that tech companies are coming to San Francisco for incredible people and human resources.

"They've taken those people and they've created hundreds of billions of dollars. So now they have the opportunity to give back, add scale. That's why I think the 'C' stands for charity because it means they'll only have to pay one half of one percent, not very much. It's immaterial, by the way, to my company. It's about $11 million a year. It's immaterial to our finances. It's immaterial to their finances as well."

When asked if that's not a lot of money for them he said, "It's a very small amount of money. And, by the way, this is the money we need if we want to get the homeless off the streets. There is no other plan. And those big businesses will pay, but consumers will not."

But where will that money go? Benioff says there's a definite plan on how that money will be spent.

"You're gonna have incredible new shelters that will be built, 1,000 people will go in shelters," he said. "There will be rent assistance for people who are about to become homeless and incredible mental health care. But there is a very elaborate and very sophisticated plan that goes with Prop C."

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He went on to say, "Don't forget the mayor approves and has accountability on every spend. So the mayor is actually approving every spend associated for Prop C. So yes, it's a big amount of money created by companies like mine, but it's going to get spent on the people in this city that need it the most and we all know who those people are."

Benioff sidestepped a question as to whether Mayor London Breed supports the plan, instead saying that Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein supports Prop C.

We have reached out to the people opposing Prop C and we'll have them on ABC7 News in the next few days to get their perspective.

Watch the video player above for a full look at Benioff's thoughts on Proposition C and go here for the latest stories and videos on the election.