Local Government

2-cent food and beverage tax proposal faces opposition

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 13, 2019 12:10 am

QUINCY -- Passage of a proposed 2-cent food and beverage tax faces an uphill climb as five members of the Quincy City Council signaled their intention to reject it.

If passed, the tax would fund the economic development initiatives proposed by Mayor Kyle Moore last week as part of his 45x30 Plan. The multifaceted plan aims to increase the city's population from 40,000 to 45,000 by 2030, or in time for the decennial census.

Those expressing their opposition to the tax on Tuesday evening were Aldermen Dave Bauer, D-2, Tom Ernst, R-3, Michael Farha, R-3, Mike Rein, R-4, and Richie Reis, D-6. The Quincy City Council is expected to vote on the tax proposal on Monday, Nov. 18.

Meanwhile, four aldermen say they are committing to vote in favor of the tax: Aldermen Tonia McKiernan, D-1, Jason Finney, R-3, Katie Awerkamp, D-6, and Ben Uzelac, D-7. Five members of the council say they are undecided, were not available to comment or declined to comment: Aldermen Eric Entrup, R-1, Jeff Bergman, R-2, Tony Sassen, R-4, John Mast, R-5, and Jack Holtschlag, D-7.

The proposed tax, in its current form, will require approval by at least seven aldermen and Moore.

Moore said he remains undaunted by the proposal's forecast.

"I think in the end it will get through," Moore said. "We always knew it was going to be a tight vote, and it is certainly not without controversy. We knew that when we started this. Anytime you offer something innovative, you know it is going to be a sticky wicket, so to speak."

Moore said he would not support any efforts to table the third reading and final vote on the food and beverage tax.

"We have talked about a food and beverage tax now for two years," Moore said. "If you look back, we have had very lengthy discussions with the city's Sustainability Committee. We will proceed and hopefully have a positive outcome next Monday."

The City Council still must vote on each of the initiatives included in the 45x30 Plan, if the food and beverage tax is approved. Those initiatives focus on overarching themes such as workforce talent development and workforce attraction; increasing tourism and out-of-town visitor spending; and adjusting the city's approach to attracting retailers.

Within each initiative are various components. For example, the 45x30 Plan calls for increasing the money the city spends each year on marketing. The city now spends $55,000 a year on advertising.

Moore has said the city's marketing budget pales in comparison with other cities, such as Hannibal, which spends $800,000 on tourism-related advertising.

Discussion of the 45x30 Plan dominated Tuesday night's meeting. Aldermen amended the proposed ordinance to include a five-year sunset, or in other words, reapproval by the City Council in 2025.

Moore said some restaurant and bar owners were pushing for the sunset language to be included in the proposed ordinance. The amendment, which passed on a voice vote, was not approved unanimously.

The proposed ordinance may be amended once more as Alderman Rein said he would like to see the ordinance's language be more consistent.

As now written, the ordinance requires a simple majority to pass but once approved, would take a supermajority of the City Council to amend it or rescind it.

"It should be consistent, and I don't care which way, but it should be the same," Rein said.

Moore said the language was specifically chosen to negate concerns that a future Quincy City Council could divert the food and beverage tax revenues from the 45x30 Plan to the city's General Fund.

Moore said he was not in favor of amending the ordinance to require a supermajority approval or to remove the requirement that a supermajority amend or rescind it.

"I don't think you should hold this to a higher standard than other revenue passages," Moore said.