City Council Member Leads Charge Against Sales Tax Plan

By now you've probably heard of at least a couple positives that come from economic sales tax. New jobs. A broader tax base. In fact, there are plenty of good answers in a brochure the city has published in favor of the plan. But it's what is not answered in this brochure that has many people concerned. They are people like councilman Dennis Robertson, who says he was initially sold on the plan.

"And then as we got into what the economic development tax money could be spent on," said Robertson. "I found out that any quality-of-life type projects had to be related to that economic development."

That was the sticking point for the councilman, who says the city has put off smaller jobs for far too long. Robertson says he wants to see projects to help the community put ahead of anything else. More park development, better streets, and sidewalks in desperate need of repair. Obviously, bringing jobs into the city helps the community grow, as well. And while Robertson says he wants the city to add all of the jobs it can, this scenario seems all too familiar.

In July of 2000 the city broke ground on a shell building on Old Union Road. The thinking was that if the city provides a building, corporations would be more willing to move to Lufkin. To date, the building has not been used.

"We have at least 500,000 invested in that that's drawing nothing for three, almost four years now, said Robertson. "And so it just makes me nervous that maybe some of these economic proposals that we say sounds real good may not materialize. It's kind of like betting on the lottery."

And if the city loses that bet, it could mean a cut in city services or an increase in the amount you pay for them. Robertson says that's something the council will avoid at all costs. Robertson isn't the only opposition the sales tax plan faces. Some citizens are calling for voters to vote for the one-eighth percent decrease in sales tax, but against putting that money into economic development--saying the city council can handle economic development without a special sales tax plan and while still reducing the sales tax by that one-eighth margin. But Robertson isn't so sure.

"Because right now I see we have enough needs in the city to require - I shouldn't say require - but we need that money to fix some of the things I'd like to see fixed."

In the end, the decision on where the sales tax goes is in the hands of the voters, and we'll have to wait until February seventh to see which direction the vote and the city goes.