Madras voters will decide on restaurant tax in May
The Madras City Council voted unanimously to to put a 5% tax on prepared food and beverages on the May ballot.
The resolution was based on a recommendation by the city's Transportation Advisory Committee.
Public Works Director Jeff Hurd took the council and audience through the history of road funding and explained how costs have skyrocketed, saying gas tax receipts from the state have not kept pace.
There were nine people in the audience during the discussion; only one commented on the proposal.
"It's been interesting reading the threads, the city comments and so forth, and one thing I just really appreciate is how much work has gone into trying to find a solution for our roads," Savage said.
She has asked many people if a tax of 5 cents on a dollar or 50 cents on a $10 dollar meal would keep them from eating out in Madras. "I haven't had one person tell me that they would stop going out to teat in this town," she said.
She said anything that can be done to beautify the city will drive economic development, which will lead to more improvements.
City Councilor Jennifer Holcomb said the tax would be for the betterment of the community.
"We worked on this for awhile, and we're trying to find something that improves our community without taxing our low-income and limited-income citizens."
"What it came down to for me is that it's very important that everyone who uses the roads share the cost," said City Councilor Bartt Brick. "... Having a regressive tax that hits low-income folks more than it does high-income folks, I'm uncomfortable with that."
He also said though restaurant owners and others have said a gas tax would be better because people wouldn't notice it, that is the very reason "not to do that. It should be very clear, very obvious and up front" where the tax is coming from and what the city is doing with the money.
"Nobody likes a tax," said City Councilor Royce Embanks. "But the city's in a position that we have to keep our streets upgraded and fix our streets that are starting to disintegrate."
He said the tax is "the least likely impact on lower-income folks or limited income people."
City Councilor Rose Canga echoed that she liked the nature of the tax because eating out is a choice.
"Roads are important because it's a window, a showcase of the city," she said. "Now if we go on with the gas tax, it's not fair. Some have cars that are charged by electricity or hybrid cars, so it's not fair among the citizens of the city."
City Councilor Gary Walker added that the tax will only last for 10 years, so if the city could find another source, it could reconsider the tax.
Savage commended the City Council, saying, "I do think it takes a lot of guts" to vote for a tax.
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