2% Phoenix food tax kicks in today

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on April 1, 2010 at 6:50 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 1 at 4:54 PM

PHOENIX -- The 2 percent food tax that's been the source of much controversy in Phoenix officially went into effect Thursday.

Shoppers at any grocery store in the city of Phoenix will now pay $2 more per $100 spent on groceries.

The Phoenix City Council approved the tax in February. The tax is meant to help close the city's massive budget deficit. The money generated by the new tax, which is expected to be in the neighborhood of $62 million over the next two years, will help keep some 200 phoenix and fire personnel from being laid off.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon talked about the tax in his State of the City address in early March, acknowledging that there's no way to positively spin the city's serious financial difficulties.

Items purchased with food stamps are exempt from the tax.

While the city council did pass the budget, which included the tax, in early March, the issue has been the source of much contention. Opponents have said all along that the tax will hurt the poor and those on fixed incomes.

"This tax is wrong," said Councilman Sal DiCiccio during the month-long debate. "It's the wrong direction for the city of Phoenix. It's not fair to burden the poor, the seniors and the working class -- when they're struggling -- with a tax this size."

If you want to avoid the tax by shopping in other cities, you'll need to head to Mesa or Surprise. They are the only Valley cities that do not tax food. Surprise, however, is considering implementing a 1 percent food tax in the near future.

This is not the first time Phoenix have paid a tax on milk, vegetables and other foodstuffs. Voters pressured the council to repeal that tax in the early 1980s.

The current food tax is set to expire in five years.

In the wake of the new food tax, there's a movement under way to get an initiative on the ballot to keep Phoenix from charging a tax on food, electricity and water.

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