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A top aide to Mayor Tishaura O. Jones ruffled some feathers at the Board of Aldermen on Wednesday, when she suggested lawmakers bore some responsibility for the city losing several hundred thousand dollars in marijuana tax revenue.
The city is expected to miss out on more than $500,000 it was supposed to collect in the final three months of the year because officials forgot to file paperwork with the state to turn on the spigot.
And while it’s not exactly clear any one entity was to blame — the mayor’s office, the comptroller’s office and the Board of Elections have all handled paperwork for other taxes — a spokesman for Jones said last week that the mayor’s office took responsibility for the issue and fixed it almost immediately after it was discovered.
Aldermen, she said, could have specifically tasked someone with filing the paperwork in the bill that put the tax on the April ballot. That would have helped, she said, because the relevant state law is vague, saying only that “the governing body or official” of a taxing entity must file paperwork.
The comments marked the latest turn in the city’s dubious start to taxing the state’s newest industry in service of tackling “historic inequalities” and helping struggling residents get access to education or job training.
Cross’ idea wasn’t entirely out of left field: Aldermen directed the city register’s office to file some paperwork with the state on a new sales tax as recently as 2017. And Alderman Rasheen Aldridge, of Downtown, said the board could remember Cross’s suggestion in future legislation.
But he and his colleagues took umbrage at blaming the board for the current debacle. The board passes laws, he said, and it’s the administration’s job to administer them.
“It sounds like the board voted on (the tax), and moved it to the next channel, and somewhere in that next channel it got messed up,” he said.
“Accountability is more important than placing blame and pointing (at someone else),” she said.
Later, Alderwoman Anne Schweitzer, of Boulevard Heights, would point out that it was a Board of Aldermen staffer who told the mayor’s office about the problem.
Cross pushed back, saying the mayor’s office took responsibility for the problem by fixing it earlier this month. And she repeated her concern that state law does not say which city official is responsible for providing legal notification of new local sales taxes.
“This isn’t necessarily on the mayor’s office to do this,” she said. “It’s unclear, so everyone is part of this issue.”
She said the mayor’s office would remind aldermen to add a line to future sales tax legislation tasking someone with looping in the state. She suggested the comptroller’s office, which sets up the bank transfers from the state to the city.