Move will help fix budget, save Police, Fire dept. jobs
Another tax on already struggling Americans. Arizona undoubtedly overburdened by social programs abused by the influx of illegal immigrants unleashes a food tax on it’s citizens to compensate for its money woes. How did this tax pass without an uproar from its populace. Is this another case of taxation without representation? And when can you expect this type of tax policy coming to your state. You decide.
Desperate to save police, fire and other city jobs, a divided Phoenix City Council on Tuesday approved a sales tax on grocery items that will generate tens of millions of dollars a year.
The 2 percent food tax will take effect April 1 and expire after five years, though Mayor Phil Gordon said the council has the option of reversing its decision after it hears from the public during 15 budget hearings planned for this month.
The tax on milk, meat, vegetables and other food purchased by shoppers will generate an estimated $12.5 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30. It will raise another $50 million for fiscal 2011. Food purchased with food stamps will not be taxed. The extra tax revenue means Phoenix will have more money in its coffers to help close a $241 million general-fund budget deficit through June 2011. Last week, budget officials proposed cutting $140 million in services. Other special funds for things like transit also could get money.
City Manager David Cavazos proposed eliminating 1,379 citywide positions, including nearly 500 police officers and firefighters. Among the dozens of targeted cuts, libraries and senior centers would be closed, an after-school program would be dismantled, and bus and light-rail service would be significantly reduced.
It’s unclear exactly where the extra money would be allocated. On Feb. 9, Cavazos and other staff will offer options of how they can reverse proposed cuts using food-tax revenue.
Phoenix shoppers who buy paper towels, toothpaste and other non-food items at a grocery store already pay an 8.3 percent sales tax, 2 percent of which goes to the city. But Phoenix has not taxed food items since the early 1980s.
After Tuesday’s vote, Mesa and Surprise are the only Valley cities that do not tax food items, though Surprise is eyeing a 1 percent food tax.
Elizabeth Van Wie told the council that the tax will be devastating for her family of six, which spends $900 to $1,300 a month on groceries. Business at the Van Wies’ car wash has taken a 60 percent dive during the recession, and the family has begun growing vegetables to save money.
She suggested taxing fast food, cigarettes or alcohol, instead. “To tax a basic need for my family is disastrous,” said Van Wie, her four young children in tow.
But union leaders argued the tax would keep more police officers and firefighters on the streets and emergency response times down.