The Greensboro City Council has been talking behind closed doors about a restaurant tax, more properly called a prepared food tax, for months.
City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said the words “prepared food tax” at the May 9 City Council work session and she received mostly favorable responses from her fellow councilmembers. Before Abuzuaiter took the plunge and told everyone what the City Council was actually discussing, the term “new revenue streams” had been tossed around for a while. So now you know, “new revenue stream” is the code word for a restaurant tax.
It appears the majority of the City Council is in favor of an additional tax on prepared food. The definition in the state statute of “prepared food” is lengthy, convoluted and confusing, but basically it covers all food and beverages purchased ready to eat, whether from a sit down restaurant, a food truck or a concession stand, and whether it is eat-in or take-out doesn’t make any difference.
The City Council sees the restaurant tax as providing more money for it to spend and it appears the council would be willing to pass a prepared food tax – if it could. But the North Carolina legislature, in its wisdom, has not given municipalities and counties the authority to impose a prepared food tax. Only the legislature has that authority.
And if you don’t like the idea of more taxes, the good news is that right now the Greensboro City Council is not popular in the state legislature.
Republicans have a veto-proof majority in both the state House and Senate. Since the Greensboro City Council consists of eight Democrats and one Republican, there is some natural animosity there. However, the Greensboro City Council also likes to pass resolutions opposing bills in the legislature that are supported by most legislators. These resolutions don’t have any effect on the legislation, but they do serve to make the Greensboro City Council even more unpopular in Raleigh.
Just last month the City Council passed a resolution opposing a bill to create civil service boards for Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Nobody from the Greensboro City Council went to any of the public hearings on the bill because – despite having a full-time employee to keep them informed of what is happening in the legislature – they didn’t know about the public hearings. Instead the City Council passed a resolution in opposition to the bill.
So the City Council doubled down on its already bad reputation. It didn’t impress the legislators that the Greensboro City Council didn’t bother to send anyone to Raleigh to speak for or against a bill that would amend the City Charter, and then, having missed the public hearings and the vote in the state House, to pass resolution opposing the bill reinforced the opinion in Raleigh that the City Council doesn’t know what it’s doing.
So the fact that the City Council appears to be in favor of a restaurant tax, doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, what matters is if the legislature which has been cutting taxes for over ten years, suddenly does an about-face and decides that Greensboro needs more taxes.