Mayor hungers for bigger tax bite out of fast food
Would you like fries with that? Either way, the Detroit city treasury would like a bite. Faced with a $300 million budget hole, Mayor Kwame...
The Associated Press
DETROIT — Would you like fries with that? Either way, the Detroit city treasury would like a bite.
Faced with a $300 million budget hole, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is hoping people in this already heavily taxed city won't mind forking over a few extra cents for their Big Macs and Whoppers. He wants to ask Detroit voters to approve a 2 percent fast-food tax — on top of the 6 percent state sales tax on restaurant meals.
The mayor says consumers will barely notice the extra cents at the cash register, but critics say the tax would unfairly burden the poor and hamper economic development.
"Just tell him we're going to go to Bloomfield Hills to McDonald's if he puts a tax on it," said Ebony Ellis, 18, as she and four friends ate at a Golden Arches in Detroit. Bloomfield Hills is an affluent Detroit suburb.
Other cities and states have special taxes on prepared food, and some have tried "snack taxes." In New York, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has proposed a 1 percent tax on junk food, video games and TV commercials to fund anti-obesity programs.
But the Detroit tax would be the country's first to target fast-food outlets, the National Restaurant Association said. The tax would apply to anything sold at a fast-food restaurant, even salads.
Opponents have been quick to call it a "fat tax" in this city dubbed the nation's fattest in 2004 by Men's Health magazine. Detroit fell to No. 3 for 2005.
City officials say the proposal, part of the draft budget Kilpatrick presented to the City Council last month, is more about Detroit's financial health than anything else. Although the tax would not come close to fixing Detroit's financial problems — officials predict it would bring in $17 million in the next fiscal year — every dollar counts in a city already bracing for mass layoffs and service cuts.
Enacting the tax would likely require a change in state law, potentially a tough sell in the Republican-controlled Legislature. The tax also would require the approval of Detroit voters.
Young people and senior citizens are big consumers of fast food and would bear an unfair share of the tax burden, some critics contend.
"It's really going to fall upon poor people harder," said Robert Wassmer, a professor of public policy and economics at California State University, Sacramento.
The restaurant industry says the idea is also unfair to businesses.
"We think it's extremely counterproductive to say to those people who have provided jobs, who have provided growth, 'We're going to levy on you a special tax that we don't levy on anyone else,' " said Andy Deloney of the Michigan Restaurant Association.
But Kilpatrick insists an additional 2 percent — a nickel on a $2.50 Big Mac — would have little effect on the pocketbooks of the average resident or the competitiveness of Detroit fast-food restaurants.
And just how is "fast food" defined? Besides the obvious chains such as Wendy's and White Castle, officials have mentioned takeout pizza places and Detroit's ubiquitous chili-dog restaurants known as Coney Islands. It's uncertain, however, where Starbucks or the corner deli would fall.
The administration says it is still working on a definition.
Furniture & home furnishings
Chickering 6 Grand $3500. Good condition. (...
city of Kenmore summary of Ordinance No 13-...
City of Sammamish DNS Lake Vista Subdvision...
POST A FREE LISTING