04/29/08 — Democrats agree citizens should vote on sales tax

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Democrats agree citizens should vote on sales tax

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 29, 2008 1:46 PM

As individuals, members of the executive committee of the Wayne County Democratic Party Monday night appeared to support passage of the proposed one-quarter cent increase in the sales tax.

But as an official arm of the party, committee members were hesitant to provide ammunition to the Republican Party by endorsing the proposal.

After what, at times, was an animated discussion during the committee meeting at Wilber's Barbecue several motions were discarded before members found one they could agree on.

The committee unanimously approved the motion, "The executive committee supports the unanimous decision by the Wayne County commissioners to put the one-quarter cent sales tax on the ballot for the people of Wayne County to vote on."

Committee Chairman Bronnie Quinn said he had been asked by the media about the party's stand on the proposal. He said he felt he could not comment until after the committee had discussed the issue.

Prior to the vote, Wayne County Manager Lee Smith spoke to the gathering about the proposed sales tax increase and what the proceeds would be used for -- a $10 million communications system for the county's aging emergency communications system.

Smith said the sales tax could generate up to $2.4 million annually, while a one-cent hike in the county property tax rate would bring in about $550,000 per year.

The only ways for the county to generate funds are either through property tax increases or the sales tax, he added.

Smith said the higher the property tax rate, the harder it is to recruit new businesses and industries to the area.

Smith called the sales tax "fair" since it is a point-of-sale tax that everyone pays.

"If not progressive, at least it is not a regressive tax," he said.

District Court Judge David Brantley disagreed with Smith about labeling the sales tax as "progressive" and property tax as "regressive."

Smith responded that a sales tax does not affect industry, while the property tax does.

In response to questions by Brantley, Smith said that acquiring the communications system is tied to the passage of the sales tax increase.

Following Smith's presentation, committee members at first talked about endorsing the proposal, but switched to encouraging people to vote for the proposal.

However, members expres-sed concern that such move was unwise and that it would be in the party's best interest not to take a stand at present.

In settling on the wording for the final motion, members noted that the decision by county commissioners to place the proposal on the ballot was unanimous -- approved by Democrats and Republicans alike.