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Business-tax ceiling, growth funding key promises

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Michael Vogiatzakis outlines his business-tax plan.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Michael Vogiatzakis outlines his business-tax plan. Photo Store

Mayoral candidate Mike Vogiatzakis has vowed to cap the amount the city collects in business tax and use revenue from it to finance growth.

Vogiatzakis said he would cap the amount of business-tax revenue at $58 million annually. He would give $3 million of it to Economic Development Winnipeg, which would be free to use the funds to help business grow.

"The business community hates the business tax," Vogiatzakis said during a news conference Friday from a reception lounge at his Voyage Funeral Home.

"We're giving the (business tax) money back to business, where it belongs."

The city 2014 operating budget predicts business tax revenue for the year at $59.7 million.

If elected, the proposal would benefit Vogiatzakis, who owns several properties in Winnipeg, including the funeral home. But he doesn't live in the city. He has a home in the RM of St. Andrews.

Vogiatzakis says the idea was spawned from Manitoba Bold, an initiative of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. It generated similar suggestions about how to boost the local economy.

Sam Katz first ran for office 10 years ago on a promise to eliminate the business tax. He was only able to lower the rate or freeze it.

Another mayoralty candidate, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, has said she would freeze the tax rate -- but not cap the amount collected.

Businesses pay property and business taxes, but argue they receive no benefit for the business tax. Other communities have eliminated the business tax, but those cities are in other provinces where they can impose differential tax rates to make up for the lost revenue.

During the news conference, Vogiatzakis held up a handwritten board -- with spelling errors -- to demonstrate how his plan would work.

Vogiatzakis said he predicts his plan will fuel economic growth in the city, generate new businesses and jobs, which will result in an overall increase in property-tax revenue.

If the scheme succeeds, he said, the business-tax rate will decrease every year as new businesses start up or existing ones expand

"It's win-win for everybody," Vogiatzakis said.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2014 B1

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