Opinion: What the Media Won’t Tell You About Tucson’s Sales Tax Proposal

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Yes, it is only May, but who says we can’t have a special election during a City Council election year? What’s a couple hundred thousand dollars between friends?

During a campaign season, when several Tucson City Council members are gearing up for re-election bids this November, the Mayor and Council decided that it needed money to pay for public-safety and road improvements in the city, so it referred to the voters a proposal, called Proposition 101, to add a half-cent sales tax to the city for the next five years.

It sounds good, but here are four things that are true that the media won’t tell you about this proposal:

  1. It’s not a measly half-cent.

Oh sure, there is a good game being talked up about how we can all spare a half-cent in order to improve the common good. But the truth is that the city already has a 2-percent sales tax, so it is looking for voters to increase its own sales tax burden by 25 percent.

  1. This is a dereliction of duty.

The Arizona Constitution states clearly that any city or municipality in the state has a duty to budget for road maintenance and repair and public safety as two of their four main priorities. If voters reject this proposal, the City can’t just wash its hands. It will have to fix its budget or risk a lawsuit for not fulfilling the letter and spirit of the law.

  1. We’ve been here before.

It wasn’t that long ago that the City cried Chicken Little over some budget issues, warning that if a tax increase didn’t’ pass the City would have to lay off firefighters and police officers. The blackmail didn’t work; the proposal failed, and virtually nothing changed, other than the police department “prioritizing” calls.

  1. Temporary rarely means what it means.

When it comes to government, there is no such thing as a “temporary” tax. The only such tax that actually did “sunset” on time was the state sales tax increase for three years that was designed to help the state budget. And that took the governor to stand up for its sunset after pushing for the increase initially. Does anyone think that current City Council members who support this increase will stand up to have it sunset in five years?

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