New taxes still leave Toronto strapped for cash
Torontonians have two new taxes on their plate after Monday's marathon debate at city hall, but council will have to look for more ways to save money as the new revenue won't be enough to tackle an imposing budget shortfall.
Council voted 26-19 to approve a land transfer tax and 25-20 to pass a $60 vehicle registration fee.
On Tuesday, supporters of Mayor David Miller's tax plan said approving the new duties is a step in the right direction.
"To live in a civilized society, taxes deliver the services we expect," Coun. Kyle Rae told CTV News.
When Miller first began pushing for new taxes back in July, he estimated they would bring in $356 million a year. He argued it was much needed cash for the $415 million shortfall the city is facing in 2008.
But at that point council voted to defer the motion until after the provincial election. With the lapse in time, plus the amendments Miller had to make to his tax plan to get council on board, the amount of money expected to be raised has drastically reduced.
Revenue estimates are now pegged at $175 million a year.
Miller has a few options he can consider to save more money. In addition to recently creating an independent panel that will assess the city's books and suggest ways to save money, the mayor has also suggested property taxes might have to be raised higher than three per cent.
He will also be speaking with Premier Dalton McGuinty to discuss the possibility of uploading some of the services Toronto currently has to pay. Now that the new taxes have been passed, Miller can show McGuinty the Toronto Act -- a law giving Toronto taxing powers to raise revenue -- has been put to good use. The Liberals bestowed the Act on Toronto in 2006 to help the cash-strapped city raise revenue.
The Toronto Act could also be used further to raise more taxes.
A city staff report released in June recommended several "revenue tools" including extra taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and movie theatre tickets.
The staff report estimated Toronto could raise $44 million a year by adding a five per cent tax on products sold at beer, wine and LCBO stores. An extra $24 million could be raised from drinks sold in bars, clubs and restaurants.
Several councillors have also mentioned introducing road tolls and congestion taxes.
With a report from CTV's Naomi Parness