Irvine coun­cil votes to end busi­ness li­cense fee

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Matt Mor­ri­son matt.mor­ri­son@latimes.com

A pro­posal to elim­i­nate the $ 51 busi­ness li­cense fee to “make it eas­ier for the mid­dle class in our city” passed by a 3- 1 vote last week by the Irvine City Coun­cil.

Busi­nesses op­er­at­ing in Irvine are still re­quired to register with the city but will no longer have to pay the nom­i­nal $ 50 fee and $ 1 state tax pre­vi­ously col­lected with each ap­pli­ca­tion. The de­ci­sion takes ef­fect im­me­di­ately.

Sup­port­ers say it’s a ges­ture that of­fers re­lief to small busi­ness own­ers, while op­po­nents ar­gue it cre­ates a nearly $ 1- mil­lion an­nual dent in the city’s gen­eral fund and will com­pro­mise the data­base used by the Depart­ment of Public Safety.

Ac­cord­ing to city sta­tis­tics, the busi­ness li­cense pro­gram brought in $ 971,000 in rev­enue in the last f is­cal year and ap­prox­i­mately $ 600,000 is used to ad­min­is­ter the data­base that al­lows public safety oper­a­tions to mon­i­tor in­for­ma­tion that can be vi­tal to po­lice and other emer­gency work­ers.

“We’re taxed to death,” Coun­cil­woman Christina Shea said in sup­port of the mo­tion. “We’re just do­ing a lit­tle bit, in the city of Irvine, to give you your money back. It’s to en­cour­age you and let you know we’re not try­ing to nickel and dime you to death.”

“Our gov­ern­ment spends too much money,” Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lal­loway echoed from the dais. “We need to be leaner and meaner.”

Lal­loway f irst pro­posed cut­ting the li­cense fee in March but got lit­tle sup­port — his mo­tion at that time did not get a sec­ond. Ques­tions about the busi­ness reg­istry were raised, and fur­ther dis­cus­sion last month led to city staff be­ing di­rected to ex­am­ine the is­sue.

Shea was swayed by a re­port from Deputy Di­rec­tor of Busi­ness and Tech­nol­ogy Michael Sher­wood and Dan Young, spe­cial as­sis­tant to the chief of po­lice, that sug­gested the Depart­ment of Public Safety could cre­ate more ef­fi­ciency in data­base oper­a­tions, such as a cam­paign to have busi­ness own­ers register their in­for­ma­tion online.

Mayor Steven Choi op­posed the mea­sure, ar­gu­ing that the loss of rev­enue could ul­ti­mately place a bur­den on taxpayers. “I am op­pos­ing to pro­tect our gen­eral fund,” he said.

“Sym­bol­i­cally and po­lit­i­cally it may be the pop­u­lar thing to do,” Choi con­tin­ued. “Deeper than that, it’s un­fair for the rest of the peo­ple to have to sub­si­dize peo­ple who are here to do busi­ness.”

“No busi­ness con­duct­ing busi­ness in Irvine will be de­terred by a $ 51 busi­ness li­cense tax that we charge,” the mayor added.

The mea­sure passed with the 3- 1 vote, with Choi op­posed and Coun­cil­woman Beth Krom ab­sent.

“We’re try­ing to make it eas­ier for the mid­dle class in our city,” Lal­loway said. “We’re try­ing to give them some kind of re­lief from the mas­sive tax­a­tion.”

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