PO Box 31696
Omaha, NE 68131
September 25, 2012
Omaha City Council Hearing
Occupation Tax & UNMC Funding
Chip Maxwell for the Omaha Alliance for the Private Sector.
A quick field report. Yesterday I was at a convenience mart at 72nd & F. At the counter I noticed a petition opposing this tax. I didn’t know a petition was out there. I asked the proprietor if people were signing. He was glad to say that hundreds of signatures had been collected at his store, but he was also nervous because petition signers were furiously vowing to take their business a half-mile south to Ralston, or two miles down the road to Harrison Street, if this tax goes through.
The main argument for the tax is that the project will cure various forms of cancer and produce robust economic development, jobs, and increased tax revenue. But all of these things are going to happen regardless of this tax. All of the wonderful things UNMC does that we have heard about today will continue happening regardless of this tax. The project is going forward no matter what. The chancellor does not announce his resignation to take over the cancer center if there’s any doubt about the success of the project. UNMC has other options. Meanwhile, Omaha taxpayers and benefactors do plenty for UNMC already. There’s no obligation for Omaha taxpayers to make this extra contribution. In fact, Omaha is not in a fiscal position to make gratuitous investments in state projects that are going forward anyway. Just stay out of the way and let it happen.
I suspect the reason some of you may not be content to stay out of the way is because some powerful people are telling you that you’d better darn well get in the middle of this and make this tax happen. You have to choose between UNMC and some of its high-level donors, and the taxpayers of Omaha.
Being on the wrong side of UNMC is a tough place to be. I know. I’ve been there. As a state senator I helped UNMC on a number of projects, including getting $7 million of tobacco settlement money directed to UNMC every year for research. But in my last political race, a donor who had supported me in previous campaigns, someone whose name you’d recognize, shut me out and sent my opponent a check for $3,000 because of my opposition to UNMC on a particular issue. Politics can be a rough game.
In today’s paper a column by UNMC congratulates five council members for their support – and by exclusion slaps the other two across the face. That in itself is amazing, but it raises a more pertinent question: Is this a done deal? I choose to be an optimist and believe that we are not just going through empty motions here because the issue is still in play.
It isn’t the cancer center proposal that has the Alliance on red alert. It’s the disturbing specter of the occupation tax. It appears the city has found a new toy, the double sales tax, with virtually limitless possibilities. It’s another example of city hall viewing the private sector as an ATM for government. That’s exactly the kind of attitude the Alliance was formed to fight.
Please stop the occupation tax in its tracks by rejecting these ordinances.