Business owners speak out on tax increase to save city workers’ benefits

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Businesses are caught in the middle of the city employee health benefits issue. The Chamber of Commerce says businesses can’t afford another tax increase, so we talked to random business owners to see how they really feel.

Overton Square is one of the  hot spots for new business development in Memphis. Jerry Mincey opened his Sweet Noshings Candy and Sweets Shop eight months ago and is now in the middle of the city quagmire over employee benefits.

Mincey, who has police and firefighters as customers,  doesn’t think city employee benefits should have been touched.

“A tax increase probably would have been a better alternative even though no one wants a tax increase, but if you spread a little bit out across everybody, no one gets hurts. You can’t hurt the people that work the hardest,” Mincey said.

The Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce says a tax increase is not an alternative and could cause some businesses to close and potential businesses to go elsewhere.

“One recent example, we just had Volvo move across the border to Mississippi, the primary reason was taxes.” said Phil Trenary, the president of the Chamber.

Tell longtime Pinch district business owner Jake Schorr about taxes.

“The taxes I pay in my two little businesses probably are approaching $200,000 a year. We pay business tax, we pay sales tax, we pay liquor tax, we pay property tax,” said Schorr, who owns Westy’s Restaurant on Main Street.

He says a tax increase won’t fix the problem, but may be short-term solution.

“There is an answer. It’s called reduce your spending. Increase the taxes for two years, three years. Do it for three cents or five cents. I can pay it. The customers eventually pay that,” Schorr said.

He says to avoid getting in this situation again, the city has to manage its cash flow.

The businesses we talked to didn’t think the Chamber of Commerce should have taken sides in this city issue.

In fact, Schorr told us he cancelled his Chamber membership because of the Chamber’s stance.