DiCiccio: 'Sin tax' is an 'assault on small-business owners'

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PHOENIX -- The food tax was controversial when it when into effect last April, but it could be replaced by something even more contentious – “sin taxes.”

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who is wrapping up his final term in office, said he still supports the food tax but is open to exploring other options, including so-called sin taxes, which would apply to things like tobacco, tattoo parlors, strip clubs, liquor stores and the like.

Other council members, including Sal DiCiccio, who was against the food tax from the start, would rather focus on finding ways to reduce spending.

Prompted by a massive budget deficit, the City Council approved the 2-percent food tax in February 2010. It kicked in on April 1, much to the dismay of many Phoenix residents. It’s set to expire in 2015 although the City Council could rescind it before then. That’s something many people want.

Opinions about the food tax have been decidedly split from the first discussion. It was originally pitched as a way to save the jobs of hundreds of police officers and firefighters. What did not sit well with Phoenicians, however, was the fact that city employees got a raise just a few months after the food tax was implemented.

"This tax is wrong. It's the wrong direction for the city of Phoenix,” DiCiccio said about the food tax when it went into effect last year.

Wednesday morning, he said if the public gets involved, the food tax could be repealed by the end of the fiscal year in June. DiCiccio said there already are four votes against the food tax, including himself, newcomer Jim Waring, Bill Gates and Thelda Williams.

"The public was lied to from the beginning," DiCiccio told 3TV's Javier Soto, referring to how the food tax was presented to the public. "This scandal needs to come to an end."

DiCiccio is against the sin taxes, afraid of where sue taxes might lead.

"What they're going to do is, literally,  try to open the door to taxing the small-business owners," he said. DiCiccio believes the sin tax could give way to taxes on other services in other industries.

"That's literally an assault on the small-business owners," he continued.

DiCiccio said he has come up with a plan to cut spending enough to allow the city to bring back some of the programs it axed in an effort to close the budget gap.

At this point, no decisions have been made about the future of the food tax or the possibility of imposing sin taxes. Both issues are just in the discussion phase.