City still gripped by 'Blue Flu' and 'Red Rash' - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Half-cent sales tax increase discussed to stop 'Blue Flu'

City and union leaders are tossing around the idea of a half-cent sales tax hike as the possible solution to the issue. (Source: WMC Action News 5) City and union leaders are tossing around the idea of a half-cent sales tax hike as the possible solution to the issue. (Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Ideas are being discussed in an effort to slow the "Blue Flu" and "Red Rash" outbreaks as more than 400 Memphis police officers and 68 firefighters called out sick Friday.

City and union leaders are tossing around the idea of a half-cent sales tax hike as the possible solution to the issue.

"I wanna make it clear. I want the officers and the firefighters back at work," said Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. "We're not going to slap anything down. That would be hypocritical to what we said earlier. So, I hear it's out there. This is not the point for us to start taking positions on it."

Wharton says his administration is still collecting ideas.

Memphis City Councilman Kemp Conrad says anything short of health care reform may not be enough.

When asked whether a half-cent increase in sales tax would make the problem go away, Conrad responded, "No, first of all, I don't think people would vote for that. If they did, that's $50 million. That's half the issue."

It's an issue that is far from resolved as hundreds of public safety employees remain out sick.

"There are no easy alternatives here, none whatsoever," Wharton added.

Citizen support

Many people around Memphis are in support of the police officers and firefighters.

"We do need the police and firefighters," Memphis resident Delia C. said.

People are voicing their opinions from Main Street to South Memphis.

"These folks jeopardize their lives," said Orlandus Phillips. "I support them 100 percent."

The potential plan involving a sales tax hike is a tough one for some people to swallow.

"I would hate for the sales tax to go up," said Porsha Goodman. "I already pay enough as it is."

But others say they would pay up at the cash register as long as it gave public safety employees at least part of what they want.

"I pay taxes. If you got to pay a few more pennies in order for them to keep pensions and get a pay raise now and then, I don't see no problem with it," suggested Hugh Briggs. "I wish I had enough money to settle the whole thing."

"They have a right to have their insurance and if the taxpayer has to pay an extra half-cent, so be it, because the city have to go on, we got to have some protection," Thelma Richard added.

Any sales tax hike must be approved by referendum. Opponents say even if it did have the votes, it would not solve the whole problem.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.      

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