Little was said about Atlanta becoming one of the most heavily taxed cities in the nation. Nor did the politicians suggest that if voters ratify the sales tax, the separate three-fold increase in sewer fees then before the City Council, and later approved, would be rolled back.
Franklin said she was thrilled because the 1 percent sales tax increase would generate between $70 million and $100 million each year that the five-year tax would be in effect.
The upshot, according to Franklin, was that 30 percent of the taxes would come from tourists and out-of-towners.
But some of that 30 percent burden is shifting back to Atlanta's poorer residents. Hotels and car dealerships likely will be exempted from the 1 percent sales tax increase, according to lawmakers and sources close to City Hall.
A spokeswoman for Franklin says it's premature for the mayor to comment on exemptions to the tax increase at this time. Everyone else Creative Loafing contacted for this story said it was inevitable that hotels and car dealerships would be exempted.
And Johnson, R-Savannah, who's sponsoring the legislation for the tax increase, says his bill will be modeled after a similar bill that included the two exemptions.
The exemptions don't sit well with lawmakers whose constituents won't be staying at the Hilton or buying a new car anytime soon.
"If you've got working families paying the price, then they [hotels and car dealers] are going to have to pay the price," says state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta. "It's greedy trying to sock it to the needy."
City Councilman Derrick Boazman, who represents south Atlanta, says, "I would oppose any exemption at all. What it says is big business is treated one way, and the average citizens are treated another way, and I think that's wrong. This [sewer] problem is so large that no one industry or individual created it, and we all must bear the brunt equally."
Car dealerships want the exemption so shoppers won't drive an additional few miles to buy a new car outside city limits and save hundreds of dollars on their purchase.
Hoteliers want an exemption for an even better reason. They believe that even a 1 percent increase will make Atlanta less competitive in the cutthroat world of recruiting conventions.
"When you do have taxes greater than other cities, it becomes a tool that competitors use against you," says Bill Howard, vice president of marketing for the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. "And the people who move 50,000 people to meetings are very, very aware of costs and taxes."
Plus, Howard says, it's not like the hotel industry is a drain to Atlanta's economy.
His latest numbers show that 17.3 million people visit Atlanta each year, and they spend $9 billion. In Fulton County alone, that generated $373 million in local and state taxes.
"So in many ways, visitors are making a significant contribution just from the taxes they generate, and if you add on top of that a significant increase in sewer rates, it just makes it a lot harder for our industry to survive," Howard says. "We would probably make every effort to make sure visitor taxes are excluded from [the sales tax increase] so it did not impact our competitive posture."
So it goes -- yet another impasse in the ongoing struggle to finance a major overhaul of Atlanta's crumbling, polluting sewer system.
City Council President Cathy Woolard says of the exemptions, "I don't care much one way or another. Beggars can't be choosers."
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