On Tuesday, Mayor Jean Stothert presented her 2016 budget proposal of $870 million to the Omaha City Council. Once again, her budget includes revenues from the restaurant tax.
Stothert was elected on the campaign promises of lowering property taxes and getting rid of the restaurant tax. On the 2013 campaign trail, Stothert rallied against the restaurant tax, saying it never should have been enacted in the first place.
“Stothert knew that repealing the restaurant tax would create a shortfall in the budget when she made the misleading promise her top campaign priority in 2013,” said NDP Chair, Vince Powers. “Each year she fails the voter and breaks her promise to repeal the tax. She says, ‘next year’, but after two years without eliminating the tax, how can anyone trust her?”
Over two years after taking office, the restaurant tax gross annually exceeds what is projected in the City budget. Mayor Stothert has actually come to rely on the restaurant tax revenue to fund necessary expenses like roads maintenance. Stothert has yet to come up with a feasible budget solution to replace the revenue gained from the restaurant tax without making significant cuts elsewhere.
“This should not come as a shock to the Mayor, as she was on the Omaha City Council when the restaurant tax went into effect. Stothert was aware of what the City budget looks like, as she was approving them every year since she was elected to the City Council in 2008,” said Powers.
When asked about repealing the restaurant tax in her 2014 budget, Stothert claimed, “If I would try to repeal the restaurant tax for ’14, I would have a $47 million hole.” Instead, she responded by saying the city needed the money and she hoped to repeal the tax in 2015 (July 25, 2013). It remains to be seen when or if Stothert will repeal the tax, but until then she will continue to use the funds. Next year, the restaurant tax is again projected to gross over $29 million. Voters will likely be failed by the Mayor’s promises again.