The inflationary pressure pushing up prices on virtually all goods and services today is no time to approve Prop 411 and raise the City`s regressive sales tax. Just as there was no justification to raise a similar sales tax in 2017 for the core City responsibility of transportation, there is no justification today to increase our taxes again for the same purpose.
Transportation and maintenance of our neighborhood streets has always been a core responsibility of the City just like every other municipality in Arizona and until 2017 City officials accepted that they were obliged to fund transportation costs out of general sales tax revenues. Since the passage of a new sales tax for transportation in 2017 the City received approximately $375 million in new revenues but has not shown it used any significant amount of these extra funds to actually improve the repair and maintenance of City streets. The state of neighborhood streets in Tucson is still an abomination. If we approve the new Prop 411 sales tax after having approved the 2017 transportation tax, that would be 15 years of an additional transportation tax which for all intents and purposes qualifies as a permanent tax increase in my book. Consider, if we pass the new Prop 411 tax, after ten more years of this tax increase how likely is it that future voters will disapprove another similar tax?
This is not the time for our City politicians to add insult to injury with one more tax increase. It is long past time for the City officials to learn to live within its means and tighten its belt to provide necessary City services based on a reasonable amount of taxes. The City must stop treating us as an endless source of funds to pay for whatever strikes their fancy at any given time instead of concentrating on adequately funding the core services the city was established to provide to its citizens.
The police support the passage of Prop 411 but let’s be realistic, the City has been slowly defunding the police in Tucson since way before the George Floyd abomination and “defund the police, be kind” became a political movement here and elsewhere. In fact, police staffing levels in Tucson are at or below 1988 levels and Tucson had worse levels of property and violent crime per capita than did New York City in 2021 so the millions the TPD expects to receive from the new sales tax if Prop 411 passes is certainly needed. However police funding, like transportation funding, should be found in funds collected through existing sales tax receipts. We cannot have a tax structure based on underfunding a core responsibility for years and then using the resultant mess created by the City as an excuse to pass new taxes on an already overburdened population.
Inflation and Price Increases
When there are two jobs for every unemployed person like there is today, wages need to be increased to attract workers and after they are hired, the business that hires them must raise prices to afford the higher wages. This is known as a wage and price spiral. A similar complicating aspect of sales taxes during times of inflation is that because sales taxes are calculated based on the cost of our purchases, the more those things cost due to inflation, the more the taxpayer is charged in tax on the same amount of goods due to the inflated prices of those goods. Most of us however do not receive increased income to match the higher prices due to inflation.
Some Price Increases
Food- I noticed supermarket chains getting in on the gouging act when I had them choose my $6.00 a lb beef roast for pickup during the pandemic and they invariably managed to pick out packages that included large proportions of fat and gristle. Reports of friends on the East coast of similar poor quality fresh fruits, vegetables etc were commonplace too. If you track price increases at the store, it is pretty clear they are continuing down the track of over charging us in many instances.
Today, a 12 oz. package of Oscar Mayer Bologna went from an average price of $2.50 a short time ago to over $3.00 today.
Why has the price of eggs just increased about 100% overnight? Is it because the huge supermarket chains are gouging us or is it because of increases in the cost of feed and if the latter what else will double in price?
Overall, prices of food and other items on sale are almost uniformly less of a deal than they were in the recent past, especially before the pandemic.
Finally, EVERYTHING in the dollar store went up 25% recently even though the documented rate of inflation was only about 7.5% at the time in late 2021 when Dollar Tree took the decision to raise all prices to $1.25. It is not surprising that this uniform price increase resulted in some Dollar Tree items being more expensive than the same item in local supermarkets!
Rent and Mortgages- CBS News reports that rents in Las Vegas have increased in some instances by 34%, Phoenix by 29%, Miami by 58% to list just a few. However the average rent increase nationwide was 7% this year, equal to the general rate of inflation. Here in Tucson there have been rent increases of 25% and more and rehabbed once derelict single family homes throughout the city have tripled and quadrupled in price over the last few years. Check out the recent sale prices of these houses. There are no longer any reasonably affordable houses in Tucson. No longer can a young working class family find an old starter house to fix up and become new entrants into the home ownership class, once a major part of the American dream.
Gas Prices- According to Bloomberg News, gas prices will continue to increase with no end in sight. In the past week there has been a $.15 increase in the price of a gallon of gas nationwide for an average of $4.37 a gallon and diesel prices have shown similar price increases, both historic highs.
Vehicles- Prices for used vehicles have increased by up to 50% and new vehicles, when they are available, are selling for full list price or a premium above the sticker price.
Please vote no on Prop 411 and if at all possible, mail in your ballot today. If it is left too late to vote by mail and it has to be dropped off in person the chances that you will have the time to do so becomes much more problematic.
Luke M. Abrams