Benton Harbor voters will have final say on city income tax

Benton Harbor, Mich. Benton Harbor residents will make the final decision on whether they should pay a city income tax.

After holding several town hall meetings on the proposal, commissioners voted 6-2 (Commissioner Sharon Henderson abstained) in favor of putting the measure on the ballot for November.

The city income tax would require Benton Harbor residents and businesses to pay a 1 percent tax. Those who only work in the city would pay 0.5 percent.

“Let’s tax the users of the system,” said Commissioner Trenton Bowens. “If we’re shoveling down Main Street paying our workers, how come people that are driving on the streets can’t pay it? Enough is enough. It’s shared sacrifice.”

But, opponents of the measure worry an additional tax will be too much for Benton Harbor’s cash-strapped residents, who just approved two millage proposals on the May 7 ballot. Those millages will generate about $1.3 million for the city in the first year.

“We just came out in [May] and told the people that we won't ask you for another millage or anything else for ten years,” said Commissioner Duane Seats, who voted against the measure.

While some residents expressed concerns about the proposed tax at Monday’s meeting, the majority spoke in favor of the idea. They say it will help the cash-strapped city improve services.

“This income tax idea is probably one of the greatest ideas that the commission has came up with,” said Benton Harbor activist Rev. Edward Pinkney.

Voters must approve the city income tax on the Nov. 5 ballot before it goes into effect. If they vote in favor of the tax, it will be implemented next year.

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