Editorial: Vote yes on sales tax


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Voters often shy away from intentionally raising taxes, but the local-option sales tax on November’s ballot should be carefully considered. This tax is simply a 1 percent sales-tax increase on all items that fall under the current sales tax. Groceries, medical supplies and services, automobiles, utility fees in Iowa City, along with rent and mortgage, would not be taxed. The effects on most individuals would be negligible; however, the effect on the city could be tremendous.

Iowa City Mayor Pro Tem Susan Mims said the city has not received as much revenue from property taxes since 2013 state legislation. If passed, the 1 percent sales tax increase could help fill that economic gap by bringing in an additional $9 million to $14 million, Iowa City Finance Director Dennis Brockenstedt said. This money would primarily to roadway maintenance and property-tax relief, and a small portion would go toward affordable housing, with a 50-40-10 percent split.

A local-option sales tax would be directly returned to the community, unlike many state and national tax increases. In November, Iowa City voters have the ability to directly improve their city’s conditions. This sense of tangibility in the current state of our voting system is so often lost. Voters are given a chance to enact a direct change in policy, and the Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes they should take advantage of that fact.

Of course, voters should always be wary of whether a tax increase or tax cut will be beneficial to the community. A sales tax can often translate to a regressive tax, so making sure the poor are not burdened by these taxes is a legitimate concern.

While basic necessities tend to be purchased in the same frequency across all income brackets, it is important to remember that most of what falls under this proposed sales tax are not items of necessity. When these items are taken off the table, much of the potential revenue could be collected from nonresidents and visitors, whether it is from game-day festivities or Pedestrian Mall tourists.

Many voters may never like the sound of a tax increase, but this could be a very realistic and practical tax for the community, if all goes well for the vote in November.

However, if the five area towns pass it, other Johnson County towns need to pass the local-option tax as well. If they don’t, those towns won’t receive a share of the revenues collected despite having being subject to the tax while shopping in Iowa City or Coralville. This is why local groups such as the Yes Campaign are trying to inform voters about the tax increase. Explaining to residents how the money will be used, how it affects them, and what they can do to support the tax will, hopefully, be enough to move citizens to vote on it in November.

A 1 percent increase to Iowa City’s sales tax will not change the status quo for individuals much, but it could have a big effect on the city’s funding. Ultimately, voters have to make a choice in November whether to approve the local-option tax, which we believe will benefit the entire community.

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