The World-Herald asked the five major mayoral candidates for their views on several issues facing the city. Excerpts from their responses will be provided this week.
Click here to read Mayor Jim Suttle's 2013 State of the City address.
My philosophy on taxes is grounded in my 15 years in the Legislature. Cutting tax rates is desirable. In the Legislature, we have cut rates on several occasions and have done so while maintaining an acceptable level of services. As mayor, I will work with the Governor and Revenue Committee to broaden the sales tax base to lessen reliance on income and property tax.
Occupation taxes should be used sparingly and the use of funds should be clearly defined and should sunset. I support the restriction in statute that occupation taxes over six million dollars per year obtain voter approval. As mayor, I will encourage the Legislature to expand development tools, beyond T.I.F. I helped develop turn-back financing in the Legislature for the Qwest Center, and I support expanding its use to public projects like parks.
I believe we can tackle taxes by stopping the excessive spending allowed by the previous administration and city council. We accomplish that by conducting performance audits of all departments of city government and looking for ways of streamlining and modernizing operations. By taking this business approach, we can so significantly lower the cost of government that we will be able to reduce taxes, especially the wheel tax and the new occupation taxes on restaurants and tobacco products.
Over the last three and a half years under Jim Suttle, property taxes have gone up 15%. He adopted a new restaurant tax, a new occupation tax and increased the wheel tax. And he sought legislative approval to increase the city sales tax again.
Every financial challenge has been met with a new tax or fee. Omahans are fed up. As mayor, I would work to reduce government spending to balance our budget and let hard working taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money. I would seek to roll back all of Jim Suttle's tax hikes.
When I came into office, the city was on the verge of bankruptcy. We had no stability in revenues, no formal discipline in spending and had lost our AAA credit rating. Today, we have fixed city finances, restored our cash reserve, made solvent our pension obligations, and we are delivering services the public supports.
We must be careful that calls to reduce taxes do not cause us to neglect our obligations or cut essential services. I have reduced spending where we can create efficiencies and will continue to do so, saving tax dollars.
In the last four years, City Hall has raised property taxes and created a restaurant tax. Omahans are over-taxed. As mayor, I'll protect taxpayers by reducing city spending, eliminating the restaurant tax and reducing property taxes. While serving on the City Council from 2001-2009, including four years as council president, I voted to cut the property tax and fought against property tax increases.