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Tucson considers taxing UA students

The UA might end up paying for Tucson's debt through taxes.


After new budgets were set by the Tucson City Council, recommendations to cover the rest of Tucson's projected $33 million budget shortfall include taxing stores from which UA students purchase goods on campus.

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The initiative was included in City Manager Mike Letcher's appendix to the agenda for the council's meeting on Feb. 23.


One of the suggestions included charging new taxes to UA store sales. The rationale is that purchases would cover costs of services provided by the city to the UA.


""The emphasis is what we can cut back, where we can,"" said Richard Putz, revenue administrator for the City of Tucson. ""It's pretty clear that the cities can't tax states, so I don't think there is any money to be had there.""


Board of Regents v. City of Tempe, an Arizona court case from 1960, decided that a city, such as Tempe, could not tax a state organization from which it gets its governance. The City of Tempe, at the time, was facing similar budget problems. The city tried to enact similar taxing measures at Arizona State University, so legal precedent sides in favor of the UA.


Putz noted that he thinks taxes on businesses would go against the council's wishes to ""promote a business-friendly atmosphere."" He also said the recommendations are a far-reaching step to try and deal with the inevitable: cuts to more programs.


""Those aren't real moneymakers. There's not a whole lot of things to do except maybe cut more things,"" Putz said.


The City of Tucson's budget department projected the budget shortfall and formulated many of the recommendations laid out in the proposal, despite the council's aim to recoup money through land sales.


Michael Carson of the public relations office for the City of Tucson noted that these recommendations remain unconstitutional under existing state law, unless separately approved by the Arizona Board of Regents.


""These (recommendations) from the city manager's office were based on projections for future budgets … (and) put a whole slew of things on the table,"" Carson said.


Katie Paquet, the ABOR associate executive director for public affairs and external relations, said the general council had little comment for the proposal at hand, as it's just a recommendation.


Only after further revision by the legal department and the general council could the board decide whether or not to approve that kind of request, Paquet said.


Other city recommendations included cutting city employee hours, implementing new food sales taxes and creating a jail district to cut back on city costs and boost new revenues.


Debby Shively, the director of UofA Bookstores, sees this recommendation as an all-around negative for the Bookstore, one of the major UA stores on campus.


""It would place a very huge burden on the students,"" Shively said. ""We would not raise textbook costs, but the students would have to pay that 2 percent at the register.""


Shively noted it would be disheartening with the work the bookstore has done with ASUA and textbook retailers to reduce prices.


This recommendation was not voted on or discussed at the last meeting. The next city council meeting is March 9 at 5:30 p.m.


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