Fight is just beginning over the sales tax referendum in Memphis

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Everybody who’s ever owned a car can tell you things can seem clear cut, but there’s always something under the hood that can cause trouble.

That’s the case here, when it comes to raising the city sales tax to raise money for restoration of fire and police benefits.

Shelby County Commissioner Ed Ford Junior says he’s getting a lot of questions about this deal, even though 53% of the voters gave it a thumbs up.

Ford says, “Many people who are not public safety, but other employees, are asking why is it ok that one group of employees get reverted to a 2014 plan? We work as hard as they do, and we’re not part of that.”

The referendum question was the idea of both Memphis Firefighter and Police Associations. They came up with raising the sales tax for benefits as a way to keep employees here, as opposed to them leaving and going to other departments where the benefits are better.

The Memphis City Council could have sponsored the question – they didn’t. County Commissioners could have done it – they didn’t take it either.

“Nobody wanted to take it over and you know why?” asked Firefighters Association President Thomas Malone. “Nobody believed we could pull this off. In the big scheme of things, nobody thought we could pull this off. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve done in 50 years.”

It has been estimated the tax could raise about $54 million.

For the county to even get in the game here, many lawyers say the voters in the unincorporated areas would have to vote in favor of raising their sales taxes.

“Anybody,” Malone says, “… be it in the county, be it in the city, be it any politician that goes against the will of the people, I think its political suicide.”

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