Lincoln Mayor Should Be Honest About Tax Record
Recently we sent an email to our Lincoln membership informing them that Mayor Chris Beutler has publicly supported increasing the local sales tax.
The mayor’s office responded to AFP-NE activists’ emails expressing their opposition to another tax increase by the Beutler Administration with untruths and misdirects. You can read the full response from Beutler’s Chief-of-Staff, Rick Hoppe, at the bottom of this post.
First, the mayor has indeed expressed support for increasing the sales tax. Hoppe contends that no ‘proposal’ exists; which technically may be true as it’s not currently on the council agenda. But it is disingenuous to characterize Mayor Beutler as anything but supportive of raising the sales tax, as the mayor has expressed his support for the tax here,
We also have addressed the mayor’s idea of balancing an increased sales tax rate with property tax relief. If the mayor believes so strongly in lowering the property tax burden, we are perplexed as to why he raised the property tax rate last year.
Fundamentally, we oppose an increase in the sales tax, which requires a super majority of the city council as well as a public vote in order to pass for tentative property tax relief. It is easier to raise the property tax, as Beutler has demonstrated. Little can stop Mayor Beutler from making this short-term deal and then raising property tax rates again; leaving Lincolnites with a higher sales tax rate and higher property taxes.
Yet, all of this is a distraction from the most important issue: spending.
Beutler’s aide conveniently left out responding to our original contention; that the mayor’s record on spending is lacking.
Generous raises for government union employees that outpace the private sector.
Hoppe praised the mayor for addressing the City’s 2:1 retirement match, yet failed to mention how Mayor Beutler failed to live up to his pledge to reduce the match to 1:1. At the time city councilman Adam Hornung said Beutler’s actions were ‘all for show’.
And there are accountability issues; such as the $380,000 in overtime costs that were not reported to the City Council and the Beutler Administration tried to sweep under the rug.
Tens of thousands of dollars spent on public surveys when simple town halls would have sufficed – and cost much less!
And how could we forget the $6.5 million spent to purchase the Experian building; a facility so large that the city could not explain how it would use all the space.
While the spending practices of the Beutler Administration demonstrate a need for reform; it is the endless parade of new tax increases that worry most hard-working Lincoln families.
Mayor Chris Beulter’s record on taxes:
- Increased the telecommunications tax in 2009
- Instituted an occupation tax in 2010
- Proposed a wheel tax increase in 2011
- Increased the property tax in 2011
- Instituted the LES City Dividend in 2011
- Wants to increase the sales tax in 2012
- A mere Google search of “Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler + Tax Increase” returns 733,000 results
Now consider how Beutler’s sales tax increase will affect Lincoln families.
The average Nebraska family spends $48,100 annually. After subtracting expenses not applicable to the sales tax: mortgage payments, health insurance, groceries, etc. the average family spends $19,400 annually on purchases that are applicable to the sales tax.
The tax on those purchases at 7% – $1358
The tax at 7.5%: – $1455
The difference is $97
Taking anextra $100 out of taxpayers’ pockets when many are unemployed, underemployed, paying higher property taxes, energy prices and watching their 401k’s evaporate is irresponsible.
And when we consider the string of tax increases from the Beutler Administration, it is clear to us that Lincolnites shoulder a tremendous tax burden already.
We want Lincolnites to keep that $100 in their pocket.
Thank you for emailing Mayor Beutler regarding your concerns about the City’s sales taxes. We appreciate hearing what’s on the mind of community members.
Please forgive the group response, but since all emails were form generated with the exact same message, I am hopeful you will not mind.
It appears the information in your email is based on information listed on the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) website, which unfortunately contained several mischaracterizations of fact.
First, there is no “sales tax proposal” by Mayor Beutler at this point. The Administration did support the Legislature’s decision to give Lincoln citizens the right to vote on a sales tax increase for infrastructure projects. We have not decided whether to seek that increase or how the funds would be spent.
As a result of the AFP information, there seems to be some confusion that the Legislative sales tax bill is related to the current city budget debate. It is not. The general fund budget is in better shape then previous years. While we anticipate some cuts, we do not anticipate a tax increase of any kind.
In the emails and on the website, there seems to be an implication that Lincoln city government is spending beyond its means. The facts simply do not support the insinuation. Since Mayor Beutler has been in office, we have cut a net total of 132 full time equivalent employees or 5.9% of the city workforce and nearly 10% of the non-public safety workforce.
Further, we have made considerable progress on reducing employee expenses such as retirement packages. Mayor Beutler was the first Mayor in 40 years to reduce the City’s two-to-one retirement match for city employees.
As a result, Lincoln city government has a modest tax burden versus other municipalities. Lincoln’s property tax levy is 11thof the 15 largest Nebraska cities, 18 cents less than Omaha’s levy. City government consumes only 15% of your total property tax levy. With these statistics in mind, I don’t think City Hall can be accused of creating a high local tax burden.
The emails mention job creation and business investment. Mayor Beutler has worked closely with the business community on economic development and Lincoln’s economic success is evident. We have cut City Hall red tape for entrepreneurs with our Development Services Center. We consistently find a way to “yes” for job creating business projects that have denied in the past.
Lincoln’s unemployment rate is among the lowest in the nation and national publications consistently laud Lincoln’s business climate in their national rankings of successful cities.If the Administration does put a sales tax proposal before the voters, it will be after consultation with the public about their vision for Lincoln’s future. The construction of the South Beltway and road improvements such as NW 48th are keys to continued economic growth. A fire station re-location plan will allow faster emergency response times at the city’s edges without hiring new firefighters. It will be up to the public to determine if these are priorities for Lincoln’s future and if they are willing to vote for a sales tax increase to pay for them.
Again, thank you all for the emails.
Chief of Staff
Mayor Chris Beutler