Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tucson Ciy Council proposes double taxation of renters; 700 turn out to protest

Like the State of Arizona, the City of Tucson created new spending programs and padded old ones during the construction boom. Now that the boom has went bust, they're predictably trying to raise taxes to balance the budget, when they should instead be cutting programs. (Talk to an opponent of spending cuts sometime. It's amusing. If we can't eliminate programs without sliding into some sort of Third World conditions, why don't I remember it being so bad before they existed?)

Among the tax increase schemes under consideration is a 2% rent tax, as reported in the Tucson Citizen and Arizona Daily Star. Over 700 people turned out last night to protest this proposal, with well over 100 requesting to speak.

The issue was mostly framed as being whether or not renters are able to pay the increase. That's a silly way to discuss taxation, it would have nearly any small tax increase being OK. Harms come at the margin. The questions that should be asked are: should the additional money be the City's? Why? And is the tax fair?

Councilwoman Karin Uhlich, according to Daily Star commentator Josh Brodesky, has renters paying less than their fair share. As this is ridiculous, Uhlich should be voted out of office. Renters do not directly pay property taxes; their rent instead reflects the level of property tax that must be paid by their landlords. They pay rent, the landlord pays the property tax, thus they're already paying for city services just as homeowners and business property owners do. A rent tax would amount to double taxation of a particular class of people, a balancing of the budget at renters' expense to the benefit of homeowners and business property owners.

The rental tax is the brainchild of Uhlich (D-Ward 3), Regina Romero (D-Ward 1) and Rodney Glassman (D-Fraternity Row). When it comes time for a vote, I'll let readers know who was in favor and who was against. Those who voted in favor ought to be evicted from their offices when the time comes--both double taxation and taxation of peculiar classes ought be simply unacceptable. Tucsonans often give their officials a free pass. The presence of over 700 angry members of the Geritol Set at last night's meeting means that this may not be the case. Opponents of rent taxes are getting organized, having launched a (lowbrow) website. Word is that John Kromko, Mr. Ballot Initiative, is considering launching a referendum effort to repeal the rent tax if the Council approves it. Kromko's ability to get things done has waned in recent years, but here's hoping he has one more success in him.

A further hearing will be held on Tuesday, 5 May at 5:30 PM. I'll be able to attend this one, and will keep readers up to date on further developments.

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