City Council Asking for Citizen Feedback on Two Tax Increases
About to be hit with a big tax hike from Bernalillo County, Albuquerque residents are facing the prospect of paying even more in taxes for goods, services and gasoline, courtesy of the City Council. But at least they’ll have a say in whether they want to pay the extra taxes.
City Councilor Isaac Benton has proposed a two-cent-a-gallon hike in the gasoline tax in the city, and Councilor Ken Sanchez wants to hike the gross receipts tax again, apparently to pay for more police officers. Both councilors said they want the measures to be put to city voters.
During an April 10 meeting of the City Council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee, Sanchez hinted that the council is considering asking voters to approve a one-eighth-cent increase in the city’s gross receipts tax—a hike that would raise $19 million a year.
Sanchez said that while he supported Benton’s proposed gas tax hike, which would raise $4.8 million a year, he was worried that putting it on the ballot along with a proposed GRT increase could doom either one because of voter tax-hike fatigue.
“I support this, but the council might be looking at [putting] a one-eighth-cent GRT [hike on the ballot],” Sanchez said.
After the meeting, Sanchez said the city has to hire more police officers because APD “is in a crisis.” He added that the council has been talking about a GRT increase for more than a year.
But Sanchez might be right in thinking that city residents might have tax-hike fatigue. In March, the Bernalillo County Commission approved a three-sixteenths of a cent GRT hike, a move that will raise $30 million a year. Once the tax takes effect on July 1, it will boost the GRT rate in the city to 7.5 per cent, up from 7.3125 percent. An additional eighth-cent would raise the GRT rate in the city to 7.625 percent.
And in 2015, city voters approved a one-sixteenth-cent GRT increase to rehab exhibits at the zoo.
City Councilor Dan Lewis, a mayoral candidate, told freeabq.com that he opposes the proposals by Benton and Sanchez.
“The gas tax is a regressive tax and it is paid for by people who can least afford it,” Lewis said. “And I’m absolutely opposed to putting another [GRT] tax before the voters. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I believe that we can find the money in our budget to fund 1,200 officers for APD. We are going to have to do some work, but we can get it done.”
APD’s current budget contains funding for 1,000 officers, but the department has only around 850.
It’s not clear why the city needs either the gas tax or the GRT increase.
In 2000, the city approved a one-quarter-cent transportation and infrastructure GRT that is still in effect. The tax brings in $38 million a year.
And the city has had a one-quarter-cent public safety GRT on the books since 2005.
Benton’s gas tax bill isn’t clear on what the money would be used for.
“Revenue from the Municipal Gasoline Tax will be used to fund the rehabilitation of transportation systems for the benefit of the city,” the bill said. “Rehabilitation projects shall … examine the entire right-of-way to enhance the usefulness for transportation an mobility modes, including improvements for automobiles as well as for transit, pedestrians and bicyclist.”
And the city’s revenues continue to increase, even without tax hikes. For the current fiscal year, GRT revenues are expected to increase by 2.3 percent from last year. Last year, GRT money funded 61.4 percent of the city’s general fund budget.
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