Four members of the Phoenix City Council believe that if Wes Gullett is elected mayor they may have enough votes to put an immediate end to the city's food tax.
On Wednesday, Vice Mayor Thelda Williams and Councilmen Bill Gates, Jeff Warring and Sal DiCiccio held a press conference, along with Gullett, to announce their plan to repeal the food tax.
"I want to declare it is time to end the food tax," Williams said. "We promised that once the city was stable we would be considering removal, and that has happened. I think it was very responsible. We acted in a crisis and implemented the food tax. I think it is now responsible to remove the tax."
During a meeting on Tuesday the City Council discussed removal of the food tax. There was mention of a possible "sin tax" on alcohol, tobacco and sexually-oriented businesses. While Williams said during the press conference that is something that would have to be studied, DiCiccio and Gullett said there was enough money in the city budget to remove the tax and not replace it at all.
"We don't need more money in the city of Phoenix," Gullett said. "We don't need higher taxes, we need lower taxes. If you cut taxes you're going to open up small business to create more jobs. That's going to grow the pie.
"We need to cut taxes, cut fees and cut red tape to allow small business to expand and that's going to create plenty of revenue for the city of Phoenix to operate. We have to find efficiencies in the way the city works."
DiCiccio said if a sin tax were implemented it would open the door to tax many other services in the city.
"It opens the door for the city of Phoenix to tax the service industry for the first time ever," he said. "It's never been done before in the history of the city of Phoenix. The first step is the sin tax, because everyone would agree to it, then they hit the small business owners, the real estate agents, the pet groomers, the beauticians, and then they go after the gym memberships. It will never end.
"The second thing that would happen is it goes from a temporary tax that expires in 2015 to expiring never. It becomes a permanent tax. That is a terrible idea for the city of Phoenix to get into that."
The council would need five votes to repeal the food tax. If Gullett is elected mayor, Williams, DiCiccio, Warring and Gates seem confident that the tax could be repealed by the end of this fiscal year.
Greg Stanton, who is running against Gullett for mayor, said in a statement on Sept. 9 that he wants the food tax to expire in 2013.
"When the temporary food tax was approved last year, Vice Mayor Williams advocated for a tax that would expire in three years, but was overruled in favor of the five-year tax that was enacted," Stanton said. "I join her in advocating for a tax that will expire in April 2013, saving taxpayers $100 million. I believe that under my leadership, we will be able to develop a plan to ensure that the tax repeal does not affect public safety or other key city services.
"However well-intended, this tax was adopted without the scrutiny and public buy-in that Phoenix residents have come to expect. That scrutiny is just as important now as it was last year.
"We must work to repeal the food tax and we must do so in a manner that is thoughtful, responsible, and in the best interest of the citizens of Phoenix. I cannot support an immediate repeal with no knowledge of how it would impact city services and public safety. We must repeal the food tax, but with a well-planned strategy, by April 2013."
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