Amazed executive reading a letter in a bar

More taxes is not something that likely ended up on your hopes for the new year. But the money from taxes does important things — provide for police and fire protection, maintain roads and much more.

Madras has had trouble maintaining its roads. It has about $14 million in deferred road maintenance. And if the city doesn’t do more preventative maintenance and fixes, the roads become more and more expensive to repair.

On the May ballot will be a tax that could raise nearly $1 million a year for road repairs. It sounds intriguing — except the tax only targets a sliver of Madras business. That is not a fair way to tax roads that benefit the entire community.

The proposal is a 5 % sales tax on food and beverages at restaurants, cafes and coffee shops. The city did consider other options — a gas tax, a vehicle registration fee and a general commercial sales tax. It apparently chose a prepared food tax, because it captures some tourist dollars as well. The city claims 70 % of the tax would be paid by visitors, though that is a rough calculation and based on tourist and employment data. There is discussion in Bend about a similar tax to help pay for roads.

A sales tax on food is relatively easy to administer and it won’t be hidden from consumers. How much consumers pay should be printed right on the sales receipt. There may be some reduction in food purchases because of the tax. That is usually what happens when you tax something — you get less of it. We doubt many people will be bypassing eating out in Madras because of a 5% tax. Some people may purchase a little less.

A tax should, though, in general not target certain industries for punishment. This tax isn’t out to punish restaurants, cafes and coffee shops. It does single them out for the tax. Is there something inherently bad for society about prepared food? No. It seems to us a better choice is to implement a broad sales tax than one than that singles out particular kinds of businesses.

This tax isn’t out to punish restaurants, cafes and coffee shops. It does single them out for the tax. Is there something inherently bad for society about prepared food?

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