David Smith’s Real Tax Reform is No Substitute for Real Budget Discipline

David SmithDavid Smith’s Feb. 24 Scottsdale Independent column “Scottsdale City Council to debate real tax reform,” describes nothing more than a publicity stunt.

First of all, eliminating the food tax wasn’t Smith’s idea. It was first proposed several years ago by the late, great city councilman Tony Nelssen. Smith can’t even be original, let alone intellectually honest enough to give credit where credit is due.

Smith himself admits that for the last ten years city spending has been allowed to grow recklessly…on his watch as city treasurer, I might add. Though Mayor Lane and the other faux Republicans on the city council (Milhaven, Korte, Klapp) bear ultimate responsibility, Smith never fought for real fiscally conservative city government…because he wanted to keep his cushy G-job.

Nowhere in his missive does Smith offer any solution for the budget pressure that would be created by eliminating the food tax. And his dramatic hand-wringing about property taxes is sleight of hand to distract you from his support for a massive city borrowing program which will be funded by…increases in your property taxes.

I suggest to Councilman Smith that we first look at some real spending reforms to make up for the elimination of the food tax. We could get 1/3 of it back almost immediately by eliminating the $4 million annual taxpayer-funded cash subsidy to the Scottsdale Cultural Council. Of course since his wife sits on the Cultural Council board of trustees, I’m not going to start polishing Smith’s “Champion of the Taxpayer” trophy just yet. An Oscar for “Best Performance by a City Council Member” might be more appropriate.

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  1. Here is how you fund Scottsdale, you phase out the food tax and phase in an entertainment tax. We are just overflowing with ‘entertainment’ in Scottsdale, so tax them! I know the old ‘sin tax’ at work.

    Scottsdale is full of what? Bars/entertainment. Certain people in the city council just gush over them, so tax them! We have a bed tax, so why not bring that further out to a ‘entertainment tax.’ Heck you could fund a raise for the police that way.

    This ‘Cultural Council’ is a huge burden, so I agree that Smith should look in his own backyard and start with that too. Phase that down OR pay for it with the ‘entertainment tax’ See a win for everyone!

    I know taxes are the ‘evil’ nobody wants, but how else is Scottsdale going to pay for anything it needs? More bonds so the city goes further under? How does this city function without taxes? Simple answer – It will not. Suck it up and realize that taxes are necessary for public services. Use taxes wisely and you get what everyone wants.

  2. Disappointing that the City Council decided not to repeal the food tax. It would have sent a great message to other cities that despite Scottsdale’s high median income, the city has a heart for its middle and lower income residents.

    I agree that it would be prudent to reign in wasteful spending like the Cultural Council and TPC golf subsidies, but slim chance of that happening. Arizona and its cities are way too reliant on sales and property taxes for their revenue. Unfortunately, a state proposition passed in 2008 that banned cities in Arizona from enacting real estate transfer taxes. A lot of cities across the country have them and they are modest, like one-eighth or one-quarter of 1% of the sales price of a property. That could have been another stream of potential revenue, but the voters shut it down, further putting more reliance on the regressive sales tax.

    Since Republicans seem to like flax taxes so much, why don’t Republican members of the city council propose a flat low 1/4 of 1% city income tax and exempt people making under $35,000 a year from paying it? Think about how many people work in Scottsdale during the day the city could collect income taxes from? Do you think anyone is going to reject a job offer or not apply for a job in Scottsdale because of a measly 1/4 of 1% city income tax?

    How about a “special events” ticket surcharge of 50 cents for each horse show, auto show, golf tournament and spring training game. How many people will not attend these events because of a 50 cent city special events tax? The point is to stop relying on regressive sales taxes and property taxes and think out of the box.

    1. I don’t necessarily disagree with the notion of eliminating the food tax, but at the same time our tax code is riddled with tax exemptions. One example which speaks to a later point in your comment is the state-wide sales tax exemption on cars sold at–for example–the Barrett-Jackson auction which are delivered out-of-state.

      Craig Jackson got a huge, taxpayer-funded subsidy in the form of a costly expansion of WestWorld which was tailored specifically for him. And other “special events” and favored parties get similar outrageous subsidies, like the millions that went to the PGA and Phil Mickelson, over a million dollars to subsidize Super Bowl-related parties, etc.

      The food tax is the least of our worries.

  3. What a phony Smith is. He crusades against the food tax (in the hope that voters will think he is a low-tax conservative) while simultaneously campaigning for $100M in new property taxes per year!

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