Posted on May 3, 2013 12:39 pm by Phoenix Opinions

Now is good time to start eliminating food tax

MY TURN

By THELDA WILLIAMS and MICHAEL NOWAKOWSKI

Over the past few weeks at citywide budget hearings, Phoenix residents have spoken out about the food tax, and we’ve been listening. It turns out, we all agree on one thing: the need to alleviate the financial burden on hardworking families without jeopardizing their safety or reducing the city services they use.

We recently requested that the city manager reopen the discussion of eliminating the emergency food tax before the April 2015 sunset date. We believe that this discussion is worth having because we, as elected officials, must respond to the public’s request to repeal the food tax early.

We passed the emergency tax in 2010, when the city was $270million in debt and the economy was still in recession. Recent signs of recovery have resulted in positive growth for the city, which is now no longer in debt, thanks to leadership of our city manager and our colleagues on the City Council. Our residents supported the food tax when the city needed it the most. If we as leaders can do anything to ease the burden of taxes for our residents, then we believe we should explore all options.

We have every confidence in our city manager’s ability to find a creative solution that would allow for the food tax to be phased out over time, rather than being eliminated outright. We believe in taking the pragmatic, businesslike approach of ending our dependence on this temporary tax early, if possible.

We would support reducing the food tax by half, starting in January 2014, if the city manager can keep our budget balanced; maintain the current level of city services; and maintain the current levels of staffing for police and fire, without downgrading the city’s AAA bond rating.

We are grateful to our residents who have helped to keep our pools, libraries and parks open with revenue from the food tax. If it is within our means, the least we can do is try to lessen its burden for the remainder of its lifespan.

Phoenix Councilwoman Thelda Williams represents District 1 in Northwest Phoenix. You can reach her at 602-262-7444 or council.district.1@phoenix.gov.

Michael Nowakowski serves as councilman for District 7 on the Phoenix City Council. He can be reached at council.district.7@phoenix.gov or 602-262-7492.

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