MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on the referendum on a sales tax increase.
The debate over increasing the sales tax in Memphis is getting more intense and nastier. That’s because two local politicians have gone public with strong opposition to a referendum raising the sales tax by a half cent.
Former councilman Edmund Ford Jr. and current council chairman Kemp Conrad penned a guest column in the Daily Memphian Wednesday. In it, they warned that the tax increase, aimed at restoring pension and healthcare benefits for police and firefighters, would put the city back on a dangerous path to fiscal ruin. And that was mild compared to the rest of the column. Conrad and Ford wrote that the original benefits plan was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. And the referendum is an attempt by union bosses to hold on to their positions.
Harsh words for sure. But they underscore some of the schism that has existed for years between the police and fire unions and elected city leaders.
The unions worked hard to get the referendum on the Oct 3rd city ballot. They argue that the tax hike would not just support benefits for first responders but also for pre-k classes and road paving. But voters just don’t like taxing themselves, so this will be a tough sell. The guest column only gives more ammunition to referendum opponents.
Early voting begins Friday. And I’d say referendum supporters have a lot more work left to do. And that’s my point of view.