4/15/08

AFSCME defends tax-hike as pro-worker

The tax stands. An effort to increase citizen input led aldermen to reconsider the sales and motor fuel increases passed in March. At Monday night’s city council meeting, DeKalb (IL) 7th Ward Alderman Brent Keller and 1st Ward Alderman Bertrand Simpson joined 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker in voting against the tax increase this time. However, their four fellow aldermen voted to keep it in place. This leaves the city’s sales tax rate at eight percent and keeps the two-cent motor fuel tax.

“Given that we have no alternative plan, it would be irresponsible of me [to vote against the tax],” said 4th Ward Alderwoman Donna Gorski.

All council members except Baker echoed Gorski’s sentiment.

Baker said the tax will put already suffering business owners at a disadvantage by sending consumer dollars to other, lower-taxed communities.

The reconsideration came in response to numerous citizens contacting aldermen over the increase, which many felt was brought to vote with too little input from the community and too little time to discuss alternatives.

“When you’re in a crisis, you have to pull out all the stops,” said DeKalb resident Lynn Fazekas during the citizen comment period. She added, however, the tax was passed “really fast” and she wants the council “to look for more cuts.”

Mike Taylor, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local 813, said the increases were done in response to a city-wide crisis. If the tax increases did not go into effect as planned, it would punish workers.

“AFSCME labor is not responsible for this crisis,” Taylor said, adding if the planned layoffs had gone through, the effect on city services would have been felt immediately.

Herb Rubin, a constant supporter of the increases in the interest of avoiding layoffs of city workers, said the time given for public input was insufficient. He asked the council to consider the 2009 budget and look for areas to cut before voting to rescind the tax increases.

(northernstar.info)

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