Food tax referendum launched, other taxes coming

Jon AltmannBy Jon C. Altmann

Are you a Phoenix voter? Think you are you paying too many city taxes? Get ready to pay more.

Six of nine Phoenix Council members voted February 2nd to tax food and groceries for the first time in more than 25 years – for only an extra 2%! And no April Fools, it takes effect on April 1st.

This comes on the heals of a rate hike of 12% for city water and 7% for city sewers that take effect on March 3rd. By the way, in public testimony, the water services director admitted the rate hike would preserve about 120 open jobs that other city employees could transfer to “in case of layoffs.”

Let’s not even talk about that Mesa wants to increase the rental car tax across the Valley to build major league baseball another stadium or that we will have a vote on a statewide sales tax this spring. That is pending State Legislative authorization.

The Phoenix Council food sales tax vote came with only 24 hours notice, having been added to the agenda at the last minute by Mayor Phil Gordon. Phoenix Councilman Bill Gates questioned the tactic, saying it ran against the “Phoenix process” that had allowed voters a series of budget hearings before any budget or tax votes in the past.

Phoenix Libertarians have filed a referendum campaign with Phoenix and have until March 1 to get about 9,600 signatures to force the food tax to public vote.

Want to help? Several Republican activists and others do and have already joined to get signatures. Petition circulators must be Phoenix voters and can call 602-595-5451 or email:

Jim Ianuzzo, Maricopa County Libertarian Party Chair is one of the key people in the effort. Ianuzzo, famous for being part of the Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit against the Phoenix CityNorth zoning tax rebate deal, has found another cause to hold the City Council’s feet to the fire. Ianuzzo said they are aiming for 15,000 signatures to get the referendum on the ballot, despite the city charter requirement of less than 30 days to gather the signatures.

A succesful filing puts a red light on the tax and a failure at the polls kills off the city from using that tactic. How’s that for a political photo radar catch?

The day after the vote, Phoenix City Councilman Bill Gates did a robodial call telling his constituents he did not support the sales tax vote and encouraging everyone to show up at the city council budget hearings (see the hearing schedule: )

Gates, who paid for the robodial out of his own campaign funds, said in the 90 second spot “On Tuesday, a majority of my colleagues on the city council and the mayor voted to impose a food tax. I am disappointed this tax was passed before you got to weigh in on the food tax.”

This is probably the first time a Phoenix councilmember waging a robodial on a council vote in a non-city election period.

Never one to miss articulating a tax issue, State Treasurer Dean Martin told me at Tuesday nights LD11 Republican meeting “I think the citizens of Phoenix will find it hard to stomach a food sales tax.”

Bill GatesIanuzzo said he got a call from a reporter telling him that Summit Consulting was already doing a poll on the food sales tax and the count was running heavily against the tax. Summit did not return my call by press time to comment. If true, the tummy upset Treasurer Martin punted may now be major voter acid reflux.

Could the timing for another tax increase together with others may create a perfect storm that brings together Republicans, Independents, Libertarians and Tea Party supporters? If the Phoenix referendum is successful, it will go the ballot at the same time as the state sales tax public vote.

Sal DiccioGates represents the city’s northeast/north central area in council district 3 and was joined by Sal DiCiccio (Dist. 6 Awhatukee/Arcadia/East Phoenix) and Peggy Neely (Dist. 2 far northeast) in voting no. In about two years, Phil Gordon is termed out as Mayor and any or all of these council members may be contenders for the city’s top spot.

One Phoenix TV station reported that Councilman DiCiccio has again thrown down the gauntlet, saying he would take a 5% pay cut to his check if city employee unions would take the same cut and that he would continue to match the cuts out of his check. No word yet if other councilmembers will see DiCiccio’s bet, or raise him one (council members are paid $61,600 yearly).

DiCiccio had previously revealed that the average cost for a Phoenix City employee is $97,000 per employee, by far some of the most expensive help around. In rough calculations, that would mean the employee benefit package exceeds 33% of pay, far above private sector averages and possibly even exceeding the cost of benefits given to military personnel.

DiCiccio has posted his findings on his own city council webpage:

Phoenix is not a happy family inside. City Hall insiders say other city unions are tired of taking all the cuts while police and firefighters have been held free of any cuts in pay, benefits or positions. The largest group of people showing up at the Feb. 2nd last minute council vote were union members and their families, including AFSCME, PLEA and IAFF-Phoenix Firefighters unions. An afternoon council meeting limits the Joe average voters from getting off work to come – apparently a lot of city workers must have had the afternoon off.

Adding to the mix, one long time city neighborhood activist, Paul Barnes, showed up to ask for a 4% food sales tax hike, trying to swap the tax for an indepth study that would lead to future budget reductions. The council did not bite on that one.

It has been rumored that one major department already figured that if employees in the city division could take about 5 furlough days and about another 90 could take demotions to the next step below, that department could avoid layoffs of about 200 employees.

“I think it was a dispictable to scare the public with cuts to police and fire to get a food sales tax,” Dean Martin added in his LD11 interview.

City officials have said they would have to lay off hundreds of police and fire fighters, but not put any furloughs on the table as an alternative to layoffs. Within a day after the food tax vote, City Cable 11 had a team of city budget experts doing a roundtable explaining where the food sales money would be spent. There may have not been much homework on alternative budget reductions, but city staff gets high marks for quickly knowing where to spend the dollars.

Gilbert Tuesday just announced it is looking at laying off 65 police officers and 29 firefighters. In contrast, Tulsa, OK, facing a budget crisis, may have to lay off 135 police and 130 firefighters. News reports state Tulsa police are facing either layoffs or taking a 7.5 percent pay cut plus benefit concessions, as suggested by their mayor. Firefighters were given an option to take 8.6 percent pay cuts and make some benefit concessions or see firefighters laid off.

Closer to home, Mesa recently slashed city salaries across the board and took away all overtime from police and fire. Last time anyone checked, Mesa is still there – didn’t burn down, no crime take-over and no-shut down of government.

Mesa may want another ballpark, but no police or firefighters went home in their cutbacks. Maybe there is a lesson for Phoenix there (good news – Phoenix already has a ballpark). Now, Team Phoenix Council is up to bat and the tax busters are pitching with clipboards, referendums and pens. Bets anyone? In the meantime, plenty of rental cars available for politicians and bureaucrats needing a fast lane exit, providing you pay the rental tax, of course.


  1. The food tax is a shameless heist. However, as Phoenix residents, we’re not scared by the “police and firefighter” routine anymore; i-n-c-e-n-s-e-d is more accurate.

    The notion that government has to keep growing is tiresome and unacceptable. If you are on the Phoenix City Council and you voted for this tax, please consider alternate employment in 2012, the mayor’s office is not for you.

  2. Compared to the property tax increases that are coming due to Jan Brewer’s “cost shifting” budget, this 2% tax is a miniscule, tiny little drop in the bucket. $100 / year on average per person versus several thousand/year per household. If you want to stop some real tax and spend check out

  3. The unions are beginning to overplay their hand. Every sane person wants our public safety personnel to be well paid and valued, but at a time when so many are hurting financially, it is not in the union member’s best interest to step all over people and demand more at the expense of others.

    I personally hope the union bosses keep it up until the members themselves finally see that too many of the union big wigs are working for their own power and not for the general membership. It would be fitting if the same “throw the bums out” mentality we are seeing in government would turn on the union goons, too.

    Unfortunately, the corruption we see in government is more concentrated in unions and the group-think mentality is drilled in deep. So many union members have sold their soul for a big benefits package and the bill of sale contained their freedom, too.

  4. It is more than a little disingenuous for a wealthy developer to offer to take a pay cut from his city council pay if actual employees who rely on their pay for the main source of income cut their pay.

  5. Here is my proposal:

    15% pay cut for everyone making over $200,000.
    10% pay cut for everyone over $150,000
    8% pay cut for every one over $100,000
    6% pay cut for everyone over $50,000.

    I had to take a 6% pay cut at my job last March.

  6. Walter Yensid says

    In Rep. Konopnicki’s Alternative Budget Proposal he takes the food tax statewide … along with a few other innovative taxes.

  7. Jon Altmann, PC, State Committeeman LD11 says

    Here’s some overnight additional – one of the public safety unions has offered to give up a couple of vacation days as furlough, plus a 1% pay cut and a slight cut in their deffered comp – however, that is only to go WITH the food sales tax.

    Apparently, city hall expects even the food sales tax to fall short of the need and will still cut.

    Pay cuts, benefit downsizing and furlough days can all be put on the table, along with retention bonuses. No one has to lose a job in this. We also need to cut other “frills” – there are more items to ax than just the pay.

    We need Phoenix to survive and protect its infrastructure so we are a valued destination for business, but we also need to get to the basics because until we get more people & more business, we simply cannot pay the bills.

    I’m still driving a “clunker” and have postponed purchases for my business. With a food tax, my wife & I will cut some more, too. People will buy less – which means fundraising will drop again, too, for good causes for non-profits, schools and churches.

    How many taxes can we take? Like the number of candidates in the CD3 Republican primary, it seems the only answer from elected officials is to go grab more bucks, not their red pen to make tough decisions.
    If we had started getting tough in Phoenix back in 2007, we would not have this crisis.

    I have friends that are city employees, but I have friends that Ron that faced either a pay cut or job loss last year. Telling them we want more tax money while the average city employee pay and benefits is $97,000 yearly is beyond insulting. It’s Un-American. Obama goes after big bonuses to bank executives – on a relative scale, this sort of thing should be equally unsettling.

    I simply don’t think city hall has done its best effort.

  8. I think the police are afraid that if their numbers and working hours are cut, hardly anyone will notice. I think the Phoenix Police are well beyond staffing levels necessary to ensure public safety. Certainly, their pay level is way more than it needs to be to attract qualified people. Layoffs and pay cuts are definitely in order for the police.

    I suspect the same might be true for the Fire Department as well, but I’m not sure about that.

  9. If Diciccio wants to make a difference ask him to give up 10% of the profits from his corrupt land deal on the Gila River. What a crook.

  10. Mike Spelman says

    For the average family of 5, we are probably talking about $225.00 per year. Hey JonBoy…..stop your bellyaching and kick in! You are the first one to scream about more police, firefighters and better schools. How do you think they are funded?
    Thank God this mope has pulled out of the State race this year. He would have been trounced anyway.

  11. Mike Spelman is a HOA guy who starts law suits and comes from New Jersey – he was turned down for a cop job and turned into a nut job. Now he is busy suing his neighbors via the HOA. He is a tax and spend liberal who only registered to vote for the first time last year after living in Arizona for more than nine years. He raises money from Democrats to oppose any conservative Republican candidate.

  12. Mike Spelman says

    Wow! Let’s see how wrong this guy is….
    a). Never initiated a lawsuit….but one of Altmann’s buddies sued me for absolutely NO REASON.
    b). Never lived one day in the great state of NJ
    c). Never applied for a job as a cop
    d). Nut job? I guess that depends on who you ask 🙂
    e). I am the farthest thing you can find from a tax and spend liberal
    f). Never took a dime from a Democrat
    g). ONly formed a PAC in 2008 to make sure that JonBoy wasn’t elected…and guess what? I stopped Jon from being elected!!


  13. Mike Spelman says

    Oh, by the way, pcbutnotpc, I sign my name to things. Sign your name coward!

  14. Spelman took money from Chris Alter, the Leg. Dist. 11 Vice Chair and state committeeman in a sleezy attempt to go after a great Republican Conservative (who, in a district that previously voted heavily for Janet Napolitano saw a state leg. race with about 1% separation of votes during an Obamanation year).

    Altman is to be commended for trying to get the seat back in Republican hands. We know now he is working hard for staunch conservative Republican candidate Shawna Bollick and some others who will punch this district back into Republican hands. Altman was right on in 2007 when he said that Phoenix needed to cut when he ran against then “Republican for Janet Napolitano” Maria Baier quite after 16 months on the job (another candidate Spelman backed – oh, but he wasn’t registered to vote). A lot of Baier’s money was from Democrats who did not want to see a conservative on the Phoenix council.

    Just more dirty Democrat smear tactics.

    Don’t believe me – check the Az Secy of State filing from Spelman’s own figures. 56% of the money he raised was from Democrats, people not registered or from phony addresses. Gosh, since Spelman was the PAC president, doesn’t that make him guilty of false swearing? Oh, but the Az Attny Gen. is DEMOCRAT Terry Goddard, so that won’t happen.

    70% of his PAC “buddies” are involved in a messy HOA lawsuit, suing two of our conservative REPUBLICAN PC’s and senior citizens.

    Spelman lived in Arizona several years but never registered to vote until 2008, when he got a hard on for the one person who stood up to slimy HOAs and who was our conservative candidate for LD11 House.
    Spelman backed DEMOCRAT Eric Meyer in his blog postings on azcentral and seeing red – Meyer is a PRO-ABORTION candidate. (Funny, Spelman’s wife is NOT a voter)

    We have a family relative that has the unfortunate misery of living in that HOA and sees Spelman driving around at night stalking houses, claiming he is the block watch guy and chasing wild coyotes to save the livestock. He collected $1,000 bucks to go after coyotes, but no one has seen anything of their money since.

    Spelman will say he is a big cop supporter, but that means he is backing the UNIONS – the UNIONS who got 12% in pay raises in the current and last budget – and they are crying about jobs and it was the COPS UNION that wanted a 4%, not just 2%, food tax.

    This guy is another one of those left wingers who is making excuses for more taxes.

    And Spleman is also known as “notsophast” on a lot of blog boards.

    Good conservatives like Sarah Palin, JD Hayworth and David Schweikert have to work harder because of closet liberals like this idiot from Jersey shores, who has been suing and we have the court records to prove it. I feel sorry for Altman and would readily help him move away from smuck’s like Spelman so they can have their happy stepford wives HOA.

    What should happen is our Republican Legislature needs to go after run-away HOAs and their power hungry board members.

    Now you can see why he failed the physc test for the PD and his biggest role is being block watch captain while all his neighbors secretly call him Barney Fife.

    Thanks, Sonoran Alliance for smoking out another left wing Democrat communist who hasn’t served a day for his country.

    Conservatives watch out – more Democratic lies are coming this year and more bush league crap will come up.

    (now watch this obsessive compulsive liberal post some more)

  15. Mike Spelman says

    PCbutnotpc is really Jon Altmann…..and unfortunately, he is not man enough to come forward to confront the truth…which is that he is a sociopath and totally unable to lead a boy scout troop let alone a community, a district, or state. His neighbors despise him, fellow NERA members loathe him and his own brother and sister did not support his candidacy in 2008. Unfortunate ramblings from the prior posting all full of total lies. This is what Jon Altmann does…….all the time.

  16. Mike Spelman says

    Just publish your name tough guy.

  17. PCbutnotPC says

    Spleman, doesn’t the multiple postings within minutes tell you something about yourself?

    You are running from the public records documenting your lies. You are failing this public psych test so well I’m thinking of going back, getting my Ph.D. in psychology and using you as my thesis paper.

    We aren’t talking about anybody but you – you intimidate your neighbors, put up hate signs, go after good Christians, and then claim you are driving around protecting people as the block watch guy.

    You are possessed with attacking one person. What would your miserable life be if you considered working the positive instead? It won’t happen because you are locked and loaded. You are singling out conservative Republicans. Your lawsuit is targeting two of them in your own precinct.

    How about the lawsuits you have lodged and the one you lost awhile back yourself?

    How about your HOA board losing the current lawsuit? Haven’t you all cost your neighbors about $200,000 in lawyer bills? You must live in a sheep farm or have intimidate people to the point they are afraid.

    Don’t you guys get it – no one likes HOAs. Next to living in Iran, it is one of the most hated things. You act like a fourth grader that didn’t get elected class prez.

    We, the loyal Republican conservatives, are watching for more liberal, left wing closet Dems and RINOs like yourself who put up fake causes and then use Dem money. You are already documented as one of those far left fools.

    Go back to New Jersey or Bronx of where ever you came from. I wouldn’t recommend any bank, company or other group to buy FINANCIAL PRINTING from DG3 as long as they have you as their salesman. Or your lame tactic of accusing your competitors, like Broadridge, instead of just selling on the positive.

    How does it feel to have the spot light on you, buddy boy?

    Who is the sociopath? – oh, it’s you – you can’t got 8 minutes without doing second posting. How about we put up signs “neighbors against Spelman” – and see how your kids and wife feel about that? Will you tear them down in the middle of the night while on block watch patrol or take a box cutter to more Republican signs because you got mad at someone and couldn’t have your way?

    We don’t want your stickin’ taxes you advocate, we don’t want your bully HOAs and we don’t want people abusers like you. Voters don’t listen to the likes of you because your hate ooozes out of you like cheap dirty oil from a leaking engine block.

    You have proven the prediction true – I am sure you will post some more. Go defend your buddy Obama and left wing pro-abortion man Eric Meyer. That’s OK, because Shawna Bolick and Dusti Morris are going to take back the district and we will rout out more closet left wingers like you. Go talk to your friend Chris Alter and his LD11 Dem buddies – after all, you took $200 from him, along with several other Democrats.

    You need a new handle, not you’re real name. How about “coyote hunter?” and keep wearing those muscle shirts – the ladies find you so hot – make sure you wear the one with the Obama girl on it.

    Liberal Dems & RINOs. We need to thank them for moving good Americans to start the Tea Party.

  18. Mike Spelman says

    Noticed you took the sign down from your yard JonBOy! I guess you support my view after all about this “tax”. Truth is, you can afford it! It has been suggested that you took that house right underneath the nose of your siblings. So let’s set the record straight Jon!

    The only signs I displayed in my yard were agianst your candidacy and, if I may, that is my right to do so. Nothing at all hateful about that…..I just did not support your candidacy.

    I never went after good Christians. I, myself am a Christian and I can’t understand how a divorced person can sit on a Catholic Church Council unless they received an anullment. That was the question I had every right as a voter to ask.

    Never, ever intimidated a neighbor nor threatened, menaced or physically bullied anyone in my life so I confused about that piece of rambling.

    Finally, I have never been part of a lawsuit until I became your neighbor. Never been part of a losing suit and never personally sued anyone. Youa re like Keith Olbermann of MSDNC….just throw things out there in an effort to slander and smear. You are pathetic.

    By the way, Broadridge is not a competitor of mine in any way, shape or form. They have absolutely NOTHING to do with my business. I am curious as to why you would go to these lengths to bring this up. Nice to know you continue to google me though!

    I will continue to monitor what you do in an effort to prevent you from inflicting the type of damage you have inflicted on this community to the rest of the great state of Arizona.

  19. Mike Spelman says

    PS…you still have not answered my question. How do you propose the State generate revenue to fund all of the wonderful things you propose like better schools, more police etc? Hack politicians like you BS people knowing full well that it all comes down to one thing….additional taxes! While I am not a proponent of additional taxes, even you have to admit that there is no other way to generate funds. Tolls? I don;t think so (and that would be a greater tax at the end of the day than the food tax) for most of us.

    Ahhhhh but I forgot, no one can have an intelligent debate with you. You are all knowing!

  20. Mike Spelman says

    Hey Jon…..nice try. Still can’t get any facts straight and another rambling posting full of TOTAL inaccuracies and slanderous lies….. AND you still avoided the question genius. How do you propose to pay for all of the wonderful things you want for the great state of AZ? Can;t cut spending any more! Ahhhh, that’s right, I remember you saying that you wanted to place toll booths on our highways! Sorry Jon, the math doesn;t add up… your homework.

    FYI….once again I ask the question that you TOTALLY ignore…..I wanted to know (as was my right considering you threw your hat into the public arena in 2008) how a divorced Catholic can sit on a Church Council unless you had an anullment. Obviously Jon, I was trying to determine whether you “hid” the inconvenient truth from the parish. I am trying to figure out how that is attacking your faith. I am attacking you dumbass!

    Lastly, (for today)…why can;t you just sign your name for goodness sake? You are a total coward, but that should not come as a surprise as you usually have your wife do all of your dirty work for you.

    I’ll be sure to wave to you this morning!

  21. PCbutnotPC says

    Seems Spelman is stalking.

  22. Mike Spelman,

    I take threats against guest writers and my writers VERY SERIOUSLY. I am closing down this thread and if you continue to pursue threats against either my writers or this blog, I will take the strongest legal action possible against you.