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City’s Tax Proposals Underscore Importance of May 21 Mayoral Election

Written by Wyatt Jones on May. 20th, 2024
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In April, Salem’s Revenue Task Force released a 51-page document brimming with 41 new tax proposals. The list would be comical if the consequences weren’t so severe, particularly for the business community.

It includes a soda tax, a local gas tax, taxing cars like property, taxing rental housing, and even tolling the Marion Street Bridge.

The next mayor and city council will determine the fate of these proposals, underscoring the importance of the upcoming May 21 election.

Salem faces a choice between two mayoral candidates with the same last name but starkly different visions for the city. Julie Hoy, a current city councilor, is competing against the progressive incumbent, Chris Hoy.

Readers of the Journal should consider how their vote will be most effectively used. In this race, we support Julie Hoy over Chris Hoy because she has demonstrated her willingness to creatively solve Salem’s problems without resorting to higher taxes that invariably harm businesses and their employees.

Following the humiliating defeat of Mayor Chris Hoy’s payroll tax, he assembled the Revenue Task Force to devise more palatable tax options for Salem voters.

This insatiable desire for more taxes should alarm the business community but makes sense given his recent comments at a City Council meeting when he said, “Our property tax system is broken… which is exactly why I was testifying this morning in front of the House Revenue Committee to try to find more revenue… I work every day to find more revenue.”

Although state law nearly guarantees cities a 3% annual budget increase, Mayor Hoy continues to seek additional funds. This obsession with revenue suggests he believes the only barrier to progress on Salem’s challenges is the money in your pocket.

The business community doesn’t have the luxury of forcibly taking money to solve its problems. The idea that money alone will solve all problems is also alien in the business world.

On the other hand, Julie Hoy is a business owner. She and her husband own Gepetto’s on Lancaster Drive. She has shown an understanding that Salem’s challenges extend beyond merely collecting more taxes, focusing instead on root causes such as public safety, creating a secure environment for businesses, and reforming inefficient city spending.

For instance, Julie has made it clear she wants to eliminate duplicative spending. Many of the homelessness and mental health services Chris Hoy has championed as mayor have been available at the county level for years. In other words, Salem taxpayers and businesses are paying twice for the same services. We need city leaders who are willing to collaborate with county officials to eliminate this wasteful spending. So far, Julie has shown a willingness to do so, while Chris has not.

Julie’s stance on taxes and city spending reflects a deeper, more thoughtful approach to managing the budget. Her business experience provides her with firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing small business owners, especially in terms of regulatory and tax burdens.

Therefore, when it comes to the Revenue Task Force’s new proposals, we feel more confident that Julie will be a voice of reason. If re-elected and given a pro-tax city council, Chris is likely to sift through these proposals in search of the best one to sell to voters. And it wouldn’t be surprising if he tries to pit workers against businesses. If given the opportunity, we suspect these ideas from the Task Force would be his top choices:

  • A business gross receipts tax (essentially a sales tax on business-to-business transactions, applicable to business revenues, not profits)
  • A tax on construction (in the midst of a housing shortage)
  • A corporate income tax
  • A local income tax

As the Salem business community prepares to cast their ballots by May 21, they are presented with two distinct choices that could shape the city’s economic landscape in the years to come. Julie Hoy’s business-centric approach contrasts sharply with Chris Hoy’s tax-focused agenda. We believe Julie Hoy’s candidacy is a beacon for a more prosperous Salem.

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