Phoenix City Council votes to bring back food tax

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In the face of a $240 million budget shortfall, the Phoenix City Council voted recently to bring back the 2 percent food tax.

Phoenix has not had a tax on groceries since the mid-'80s, but in order to help fill the budget gap the city council voted on Tuesday to bring it back. The sales tax is expected to raise around 62 million during the next two years.

"We're looking at trying to save and protect some of the most vulnerable services that we provide to the citizens of Phoenix," said Councilman Michael Johnson of District 8.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, however, is asking for an even larger grocery tax of 4 percent, saying it is needed in order to keep police officers and firefighters on the street.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio's office has been inundated with phone calls and e-mails from people upset about the tax. He opposes the increase, and instead feels we need to rein in spending. He also feels the tax will not go away when it is scheduled to in five years.

"A tax will never stop growing," DiCiccio said. "Once you start taxing goods and services, or any type of tax, there will always be a dependency on that tax and those dollars coming in."

Shopper Andrew Thurston says he spends about $100 a week on groceries.

"I think it's ridiculous," Thurston says.

With the new 2-percent tax increase Thurston is looking at spending another $104 a year more on groceries.

"Food is the last place we want to attack," Thurston said.

During the next few weeks, the city council will hold 15 hearings to get feedback from members of the public about the grocery tax before it goes into effect in April.

If they decide to make it a 4 percent tax, there are a few more steps the Phoenix City Council would need to take. But when the 2 percent tax goes into effect in April, Mesa and Surprise will be the only two cities left in the Valley where people can buy tax-free groceries.