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Reader View: It’s OK — you can vote no

April 23, 2017 GMT

You’re reasonable and responsible; you love Santa Fe and try to make it a better place to live. You support pre-K and want all kids to have the opportunity to be successful. Voting day is coming. You want to vote “yes,” but something just feels off about this whole election.

You’ve met the mayor; he’s a charming guy, easy to like. But he’s making some big promises: The city’s going to educate our 3- and 4-year-olds and manage that well, yet the city’s parks and streets are neglected; the city’s entering the tax-collection business in a way it has never done before; the city wants everyone to drink less soda, but it’s counting on people drinking enough “sugary drinks” to come up with $7-plus million year after year after year.

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Then you do the math: $7-plus million a year, roughly 85,000 people in Santa Fe, so that’s a tax of $88 per person each year. You’ve read the statistics: Only about half of us drink sugared sodas, so that means the mayor needs the 45,000 or so Santa Feans who drink soda to pay about $165 per year in taxes to compensate for the ones who don’t. Take away something for tourists and other visitors to the city — they’ll still drink our expensive soda — and even then that’s a tax of about $600 a year for a Santa Fe family of four.

You and your friends don’t drink a lot of soda. You can afford to shop at Whole Foods or the food co-op, and you’re more aware of your health now than you were when you were younger, so you eat right, mostly. You know it’s the young and the working people in Santa Fe who will be hit hardest by the tax: the kitchen workers, the construction guys, the weekend warriors. Some of your friends have even asked, “I support pre-K and want to pay my share; isn’t there a better way to do this?”

The mayor says that he can’t fund this tax in a way that’s more evenly shared by everyone. He says that he doesn’t want to increase property taxes and that there’s no flexibility to raise gross receipts taxes.

You read The New Mexican. You know the city’s budget is in really good shape right now. So good that the mayor wants to give wage increases to all city workers, paid for by various fees and taxes. That just doesn’t seem right.

So you decide it’s OK to vote “no.” After all, you’re voting against the sugar tax — not whether you want pre-K in our city. If the sugar tax is voted down, you want the mayor to continue his fight for pre-K, and you hope he succeeds. You just want him to find a better way to fund it — so you and your friends help with your fair share, and so working families aren’t burdened with paying most of the cost of pre-K here in Santa Fe.

Kevin McBride owns a Santa Fe business that employs 20 young people who will pay much more than their fair share to fund pre-K, if the sugar tax passes.