Tucson City Council agrees to ask voters for tax hike

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After several years of declining revenues, furloughs, and job cuts, the City of Tucson says it wants to avoid even deeper cuts, but they say the only way to do that is to raise taxes.

The council is asking voters to allow them to increase the city sales tax to fund core services.

We're only one week into the 2011 fiscal year and already, the City of Tucson projects a $40M budget deficit for fiscal year 2012. A possible solution-- raising taxes.

"Our recommendation is that you raise the sales tax half a cent. That this half cent be for five years," Jaime Gutierrez is co-chairman of a citizens committee that recommended the sales tax increase be placed on the November ballot.

They came to that conclusion after determining they could not find $40M in immediate cuts.

The money raised from the proposed tax would specifically fund core services.

The City of Tucson defines core services as public safety, transportation, and parks and recreation.

But Gutierrez knows that even with the emphasis on core services, it will be a tough sell to people, with voters approving the statewide 1-cent sales tax this past May.

But not a single penny of that billion dollars that are going to be raised is coming to the City of Tucson

Most of the council members agreed that the voters should have their say.

Steve Kozachik was not one of them, "Well it costs you $300,000 for one thing. So let's not spend $300,000 to ask them something that i think they're gonna say no to."

He thinks they'll say no because Tucson's sales tax would be higher than other surrounding towns.

Meanwhile, Wednesday night at a public hearing, people had their chance to speak out.

"Please join us in cutting more and taxing less."

"I think we've suffered enough."

The council, however, wants to have the voters decide.

If the voters approve the measure on November 2nd, it gives the mayor and council the authority to raise the sales tax from 2% to 2.5%.  And at that point, it would be up to the council to amend the tax code.