Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff backs corporate tax to fight homelessness

Salesforce founder and co-CEO Marc Benioff is putting his money behind a lobbying push to impose a new tax on big companies that would raise money to help San Francisco's homeless.

The software mogul is pledging at least $1.5 million to help pass Proposition C, a ballot measure that would levy an average 0.5 percent tax on every dollar of corporate revenue above $50 million. Salesforce, which makes software companies use to manage customer relations, will separately contribute $500,000 to the campaign, called "Yes on C."

Homelessness is considered one of the top issues confronting San Francisco, where an estimated 7,500 people and 1,200 families live on the streets.   

Proponents of Prop C, which voters will consider in November, say the tax would help provide housing for 5,000 people and create 1,000 new beds in the city's shelters. Funding would also go to support mental health services and rental assistance.

Benioff's support for a homeless tax diverges from San Francisco's Chamber of Commerce, which said in a guide to voters that "repeatedly raising taxes on businesses without any accountability won't fix the homelessness problem."

The city's Office of Economic Analysis predicts Prop C would would raise $250 million to $300 million per year and help reduce the city's homeless population. 

In its latest fiscal year, San Francisco spent roughly $380 million on services related to homelessness. The San Francisco Controller's office estimates that between 300 and 400 local businesses would be affected by the tax.

Given San Francisco's problem homelessness, "We need to be super aggressive about this," Benioff told the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday.

Seattle's City Council in June scuttled a corporate tax that would have raised about $50 million a year to fund affordable housing projects after encountering opposition from companies including Amazon.