Ferndale might reverse decision to put gas tax on ballot

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 22, 2013 

FERNDALE - City voters might not be asked to approve a gas tax after all. A Ferndale City Council member who voted in favor of putting a penny-per-gallon tax on the November ballot might change his vote when the council revisits the decision at its next meeting, on Monday, June 3.

The council voted on Monday, May 20, to reconsider its May 6 vote to put the tax on the ballot. The tax, imposed on gas stations, would only pay for road repairs and would raise an estimated $50,000 to $100,000 a year.

Gas station owners, realizing they still had a chance to defeat the measure before voters even saw it, expressed stern opposition to the tax at the May 20 meeting.

"I would ask you to reconsider raising the tax," said Anil Sharma, who owns the Shell station at Main Street and LaBounty Drive. "We're a small business owner, trying to survive. Things are not good. By adding that, at the end of the day we're going to end up paying that."

Other gas station owners also said competition was too intense to pass the extra penny on to customers. Voters might approve the tax under the incorrect assumption that it would be paid mostly by Canadians, said Sam Boulos, one of about 10 station owners in the city.

"You're taxing 10 people. You're not taxing the community. You're not taxing the Canadians," Boulos said. "You're going to put it out to the voters? They hate Canadians. Unfortunately, if we didn't have Canadians in this county, we wouldn't have retail."

In an interview on Tuesday, May 21, council member Lloyd Zimmerman signaled that he might vote against the gas tax, which could swing the outcome and keep the tax off of the November ballot. Zimmerman supported putting the measure on the ballot when it passed 4 to 3 on May 6.

"Last night I think it became real clear it's not wanted by that community," Zimmerman said Tuesday, referring to station owners. "I don't want to be the one who helps gouge those small businesses."

He also noted that voters approved in February 2012 a 0.2 percent sales tax increase in the city, which also goes to road repairs.

"Let's not get all greedy and sacrifice these business people for the sake of a few extra dollars," Zimmerman said.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/politics or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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