Government Officials Hunger for More Revenue Through Food Taxes
At a time of rising food inflation, food taxes are increasingly in the news. And while some cities and states have seen fit to reject taxes on foods sold by grocers or restaurants, others are going in exactly the wrong direction.
Food taxes have made headlines recently in Minnesota, Oregon, Utah, and Kansas. In Sartell, Minnesota, for example, residents will vote in a special election in February that will determine whether the city will impose a tax on foods sold by restaurants and bars there.
A pair of similar votes took place in Oregon this month, with mixed results. Last week, voters in Newport, Oregon, rejected a proposed five-percent tax on prepared foods and beverages sold by restaurants and bars. Supporters claimed the proposed tax would have added more than $2 million to city coffers in its first year.
While Newport’s mayor had touted the tax as a way to address an “impending structural deficit,” the city had proposed to use the money to hire new staff, including a parking-enforcement officer, and to spend around $200,000 “for one-time grants to assist businesses in implementing collection of the new tax.”
Opponents, on the other hand, explained why the proposed tax was unfair—citing everything from the impact of food inflation on residents’ abilities to feed themselves and their families to the effects of COVID-19 and related restrictions on the restaurant industry, which is struggling still to recover.
“No industry was more negatively impacted by COVID-19 than the hospitality industry,” Mike Franklin, owner of Newport Chowder Bowl, told the Newport News before last week’s vote.
“Massive layoffs of employees, complete shutdowns or limited hours of operation, limits on indoor dining and increased prices or shortages from suppliers have all contributed to devastate the restaurant industry.”
In Cannon Beach, a couple hours up the Oregon coast from Newport, voters chose to adopt a similar 5 percent food tax by a narrow 52-48 margin. Funds raised from the tax will be used to build a new city hall and police department offices.
Before the vote, Shelly Crane, who owns local
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