City council debates keeping 2-percent food tax - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

City council debates keeping 2-percent food tax

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PHOENIX -

It was one of the key issues of the Phoenix mayor's race back in 2011 -- the city's controversial 2-percent food tax.

When he ran in 2011, Greg Stanton said he wanted the tax gone by May of 2013.

"We should get rid of the food tax as soon as we possibly can," he said.

But as the city takes up its new budget, Mayor Stanton is saying now is not the time to get rid of it, saying it could led to cuts with police and fire.

"You'll see the impact on this community if we were to get rid of it today, including the impact on public safety," said Stanton Tuesday.

The council is considering its budget options, both with and without money from that food tax. Right now, the mayor is saying the city would be hit hard if that tax goes away.

That food tax generates about $50 million a year. The city manager basically said with that tax in place, things are looking pretty good for the city of Phoenix. But without it he paints a grim picture.

City Manager David Cavazos projects that without the tax, there will be major cuts to public safety -- about 100 officers, as well as 300 other city employees.

The tax is set to expire in 2015, but there are a couple council members that are calling for Mayor Stanton to make good on his campaign promise and repeal it early.

The crowd at the Tuesday meeting was a decent size. They had a portion of public comment after Cavazos presented the budget.

The majority who spoke were in favor of keeping the food tax in place, but there were a couple who want to get rid of it now.

"The national economy to date has increased just 2 percent, that's representative of a sluggish economy, it's nationally sluggish, it's sluggish here and it isn't going to change in two months," said one member of the public.

"We don't need to lose any police officers. We're already paying tax money in, so why are you interested in taking it out in this moment, why can't you just leave it in until 2015?" said another person.

"This is the worst possible tax for working poor and poor on the west side," said a third.

"If the budget's improving, we could do it without public safety, our core service, or hurt our credit rating as a city, we should do it. The reality today is this is a break even budget," Stanton said.

Mayor Stanton made it very clear nothing has been decided yet. This is just the beginning of the debate. The city will have 20 community meetings next couple months.

The council must make a decision by the end of May.

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