Councilman wants food trucks to pay Providence car taxes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Food truck owners operating in the city of Providence would be required to register their vehicles – and pay car taxes – in the city under an ordinance set to be introduced at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

Councilman Sam Zurier, a Democrat who represents Ward 2 on the East Side, said only 17 of the 41 food trucks with licenses to operate in the city have motor vehicle registrations in Providence.

“If they’re going to come to our city and they’re going to gain business from our customers and they’re going to park their truck on our streets, it would seem only [right] that they would pay to us their motor vehicle excise tax,” Zurier said.

The city’s current car tax rate is $60 per $1,000 of assessed value, with the first $1,000 exempt. It is the highest rate in Rhode Island. (The Elorza administration’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would raise the exemption to $2,000.)

The proposal is likely to be met with opposition from food truck owners who spend the bulk of their time in the city.

Eric Weiner, a food truck advocate who founded the website Food Trucks In, told WPRI.com the ordinance sends the wrong message for businesses in Providence. He noted that at least 30 food trucks are expected to participate in PVD Fest in downtown this weekend.

“If every city followed suit, it would basically shut down the industry statewide,” Weiner said.

For his part, Council President Luis Aponte said he supports the food truck business.

“What the food trucks and the street food scene offer really has an impact beyond what the revenues may be,” he said.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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