Greg Stanton, Phoenix Mayoral Candidate, Criticizes Opponent Wes Gullett for Advocating for Tax Increase for the Arts

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Former Councilman Greg Stanton, who is facing Wes Gullett in the November election for Phoenix mayor, is calling out his opponent for pledging to voters that he would champion a  tax increase to support the arts.

Stanton calls himself a "strong and passionate" supporter of the arts, but says that given the city's struggling economy, now is not the time for a tax increase.

He says that Gullett's proposal is "ludicrous" and "shows how out of touch" Gullett is with residents.

No one was available for comment from Gullett's camp. (UPDATED)

Gullett previously explained to New Times that this tax was unlike the highly-criticized food tax approved by the Phoenix City Council (which he has pledged to repeal) because residents would have a chance to decide for themselves if they wanted it.

However, Gullett's plan for a voter-approved tax increase contradicts his campaign-trail message regarding the repeal of the food tax and doesn't mesh with one of his four stated priorities:

"... we have to have a government we can afford. We can't keep doing the same things we have been doing in the past. We can't afford to just keep increasing tax rates and fees," he says in a statement on his website.

Stanton points out in a press release about Gullett's tax-for-the-arts plan that Gullett's first brush with the sales tax increase to support the arts was in 2010 and at the behest of one of his clients.

Gullett is a founding partner of FirstStrategic Communications & Public Affairs, one of the largest lobbying firms in the state.

"Although his client dropped the idea more than a year ago, Gullett recently renewed his commitment to the proposal, and told voters he'd champion the tax hike as mayor," Stanton's press release says.

Sarah Fenske, a former New Times columnist, wrote about the proposed statewide tax in January 2010, and as you can see, she pointed out a few reasons why it wasn't a good idea then:

One hundred million dollars.
That's how much money the Metro Phoenix Partnership for Arts and Culture hopes to generate from a new tax hike proposal quietly being prepared for voters.
One hundred million freakin' dollars, each year.
Are these people insane?
This state is in near-meltdown. Foreclosures are up. Employment is way, way down. We lost 10 percent of our population base -- and the attendant sales tax revenue -- seemingly overnight.
So Arizona's decision makers are closing state parks. They're contemplating shutting down the state's entire juvenile detention system. They're slashing funds for education, for the investigation of child abuse and neglect, for healthcare. They sold the State Capitol building. I repeat: They sold the State Capitol building.
And now some group of clueless corporate types wants to raise taxes to pay for more arts and culture?
These guys are so tone deaf, they're practically Marie Antoinette.
The people have no bread? Ha!
Let them subsidize the ballet."

Gullett told voters on June 13 during a mayoral candidate's forum that he would make pushing the tax a priority if he is elected, making a reference to the previous plan he lobbied for on behalf of his then-client -- Metro Phoenix Partnership for Arts and Culture, or MPAC.

Of course, the Stanton Camp was kind enough to pull Gullett's exact quote from the June forum video, which Stanton reps also provided.

"To make [the Arts] more robust we have to have money and so we can either cut other things to do it or we can put together a plan which I have worked on before in the past, and I think it's a very important plan, to create real art investment. . .So what we have to do is, we have to plan for that and we have to take it to the voters and we have to ask the community to support the arts."

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