Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2 (per)cents

So the Phoenix City Council has approved (6-3) a 2% sales tax on grocery items (Story). These are items like milk, bread, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. The council indicates that the tax will be used to prevent layoffs of first responders (police and firefighters) and other city workers AND that the tax will sunset after 5 years. The mayor cites a Census study to say the tax will cost a family of four ~$240/year. Food that is purchased with food stamps will NOT be taxed. The tax goes into effect April 1st (are they joking?), but the Council will be holding 15 public budget hearings over the next month to "gather input".

Obviously my knee-jerk reaction is similar to those in the 'comments' section of the article, if not a little less vitriolic. I understand the need to fund the police and fire departments and that this tax will raise roughly 60 million of the necessary $140 million shortfall the city is facing through FY 2011. So in the end, cuts will still have to be made, just not as severe. If I were to attend any of these hearings I would have one two-part question a.) Obviously you're concerned that fewer police on the streets will have a negative impact on the crime rate, how much of a spike in crime do you expect to see if this tax is not enacted and the police department is forced to make sweeping cuts? b.) How much of a spike in crime do you expect to see if this tax IS enacted and makes it harder for people to buy milk, bread, and eggs?

Judging by the comments section of the article other citizens will bring up some equally relevant points like, "Where the hell did all that money from the photo radar zones go" (I'm betting a significant chunk of that goes to the state). And the ever popular "ZOMG. Tax and spend libera-faci-zis! We's gonna vote yallz out!!1one".

Personally I don't have a problem spending an extra 2% on groceries. I do; however, worry about the number of families that ARE out there living on meager wages and not on food stamps (think illegals). For these people an extra $240/yr might well be 2% of their entire income, and I'm never in favor of making it harder to buy daily essentials like milk and bread (and cheese, yes, it IS essential). It just doesn't feel like the City Council has really thought of all the options available to them before approving this tax - but I suppose that's also why it doesn't go into effect until April 1st (seriously?)

I think the only truly ridiculous part of this is the idea that the tax will "sunset" after 5 years. Yeah. Right. The Council argues that they're trying to reduce the $140M they have to cut by the end of FY 2011 (June 30th, 2011), and if that's the case then the tax should sunset after TWO years, not FIVE. If it were truly meant to be a temporary relief then it should expire once it has served it's purpose, and if it turns out the city is still in dire straights in 2012, then re-up the tax for another year. Five years. HA. Ha. ha.

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