Poll: Phoenix Food Tax Leaves Bad Taste in Residents' Mouths

Most Phoenix voters don't like the city's 2 percent  temporary tax on food.

That was the big reveal in a poll conducted by Summit Consulting Group of likely Phoenix voters -- 58 percent of those surveyed oppose it, 41 percent of them "strongly oppose" it.

Chad Willems, President of Summit Consulting Group, said that its a key issue for the November election in Phoenix, which includes a race between Greg Stanton and Wes Gullett to be Phoenix's next mayor.

Gullett has called for the immediate repeal of the food tax, approved by the City Council last year, while Stanton says that it should remain in place until 2013, two years before it is currently set to expire.

Robbie Sherwood, a spokesman for the Stanton campaign, says that Stanton believes it should be repealed only "after responsible steps to ensure public safety and vital services are not recklessly gutted."

Willenms said that he conducted the poll because he was interested in the issue, and wasn't paid by anyone do it. He also said that he didn't ask any poll questions to get a read on the mayor's race.

He has worked in the past for the Republican Party, and he notes on his website, that "in addition to managing and recruiting clients at the Summit Consulting Group, [he] continues to raise campaign funds for Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County," as well as several other political candidates in Arizona. He also served as Finance Director for then-Congressman J.D. Hayworth.

Summit Consulting Group surveyed 400 voters who have cast ballots in previous elections on September 12 and September 13, and say there is a 5 percent margin of error.

The questions: "Last year, the Phoenix City Council voted to implement a 2 percent sales tax on food that is sold within the city. In terms of support or opposition to this food tax, would you say you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose?

Councilman Michael Nowakowski, who was re-elected on August 20, reminds residents that tax is temporary and "has enabled Phoenix to keep 117 sworn police positions and 62 sworn fire positions."

He challenged those on the City Council and Gullett, who advocate for repealing the tax, to lay out a plan on how they would make up that $50 million a year to maintain city services.

"All I am asking for is a plan. Show me a plan," Nowakowski says.

Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Gullett, said that the $50 million that would be lost when the food tax is repealed could be made up through reforms to the city's pension system and making changes to city employees' merit pay increases.

Though he didn't share details, Scarpinato says that those two reforms alone would save the city more than enough to make up for the food-tax repeal. He also says that Gullett is unveiling a pension reform plan on Monday.
Stanton, a former councilman, also believes that the food tax should be repealed, but in 2013. That's two years before it is set to expire, saving taxpayers $100 million.

Stanton doesn't agree with the adding a "sin tax", as Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and Councilman Tom Simplot proposed for items from adult shops, tattoo parlors, strip joints and the like. And he rejects the idea that voters should consider an art tax, as Gullett has proposed.

Read more about Gullett's proposal for a tax increase to support the arts.