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As usual, Ishmael Hope has written another thought-provoking letter to the editor. I couldn't agree with him more about the regressive nature of a sales tax. Unfortunately, in a community that encourages tourism, a broad-based sales tax is one of the few ways to generate revenue from that sector.
My husband and I are senior citizens who enjoy the benefits of the sales tax exemption; however, I would gladly give up the blanket sales tax exemption in return for an exemption from the tax on food for all residents. It doesn't make sense to provide an exemption from the tax on luxury goods for some residents and require others who may be living in much more difficult circumstances to pay the tax on basic living requirements. Some years ago, the city realized the gross inequity in charging tenants sales tax on rents and created an exemption for that. It's time to do that for food.
If part of the rationale behind building a second swimming pool in the valley is to encourage a healthy, active lifestyle, I have a suggestion for how a sales tax exemption on food could contribute to that while minimizing the impacts to the city's income: Don't grant an exemption from the tax on all food; grant an exemption from the tax on only unprocessed and minimally processed foods. These foods are the healthiest choices and are the best means of fighting obesity and other diet-related problems. Such foods would include fresh produce, dairy products, whole grains and rice, dried legumes, and uncooked meat and fish.
If the city would consider eliminating the sales tax on all foods, or minimally processed foods as suggested above, it would provide the greatest impact for those for whom the sales tax is the biggest burden and still garner the greatest income from tourists and others who can most afford it.