Omaha, Nebraska mayor Jim Suttle, while in Washington, D.C. attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors, put forward the seemingly comical idea of a tax on toilet paper that could help cities like Omaha pay for multibillion-dollar federally-mandated sewer projects, according to the Omaha World Herald
|Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle
The proposal calls for a 10-cent federal tax on every roll of toilet paper the consumer buys.
After the media jumped on the story — perhaps diminishing what Suttle considers the rightful focus on the critical funds-scramble for money-strapped cities like Omaha — he told another reporter for the World Herald that he was basically just making a point. In reality such a TP tax was already before Congress in 2009.
The real point to Suttle is a serious one: It seems wrong to him to saddle the citizens of Omaha with the full $1.7 billion for bringing the city's sewer system up to federal Environmental Protection Agency codes.
“Plain and simple: [The sewer project] is an unfunded federal mandate,” Suttle told the paper. “As for any sort of toilet paper tax, that comment was more for shock value. The EPA isn't getting it. Cities across the country are going to be saddled with this horrific debt. I'm ready to go to battle for this.”
The resurrected idea for the tax came from a failed 2009 House measure by an Oregon congressman on a mission to help cities and the environment. “I heard about it and said, ‘Well, this is simple. Let's put it on the table,'” said Suttle. “It doesn't mean I endorse it.”
The mayor says the federally mandated sewer improvements must be done by 2024.
“How are we affording this . . . as we come out of the recession?” he asked. TP tax aside, he'd like the federal government to cover half of the cities' costs, possibly with grants.
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