Allegheny County Executive candidate D. Raja said he would definitely eliminate the County's 7% drink tax in his first budget if he is elected in November. Raja made the statement while releasing his taxing plan Thursday morning outside of the Convention Center.
Raja said the drink tax kills or hobbles local bars and restaurants. He said the drink tax, along with the rental car tax, also makes it harder to attract lucrative convention traffic.
"When you want conventions to come here, you've got to make sure all the pieces are in place for people to come," said Raja, who also hopes to lower the rental car tax as soon as possible. "They are going to make a comparative thing and say, 'Does the convention cost me X here and Y there?' … So all those things add up."
The money from those two taxes goes to funding the Port Authority of Allegheny County. Raja said he could cover the $35 million that would be lost by the repeal of the drink tax through costs savings. He would not specify the amount that would be saved in any department. Those numbers, he said, will be released after he takes office and has spoken to all of the department heads.
"As a CEO, when you come in, what you want to do is make sure you have the concurrence of your department heads," Raja said, "but we have specific numbers."
Raja said that as he finds more costs savings, grows the economy through new jobs, and creates revenue through Marcellus Shale drilling, he will lower the rental car tax and property taxes. Raja said he would consider shale drilling in county parks if it can be done in a way that does not harm the recreational value of the facilities.