Eliminating the sales tax on food would carve $2 million from Salt Lake City's general fund budget, but Mayor Palmer DePaulis said philosophically he still supports such a measure now being debated on Capitol Hill.

Sales tax on food brought $2 million to the city's $79.7 million 1988-89 budget, a budget $1.8 million smaller than the previous one. Eliminating that kind of revenue would "be very damaging," DePaulis told reporters Thursday."But philosophically, I feel some sympathy and would support, probably, trying to remove the sales tax on food," he said, calling it "inequitable."

However, any food tax cutting measure passed by the Legislature, now in its fourth day of the 1989 session, should not affect municipalities' budgets, DePaulis said.

Two measures removing the sales tax on food that would cost between $60 million and $100 million have been introduced in the Legislature this year by Sen. Frances Farley, D-Salt Lake, and Rep. Jed Wasden, R-Midvale.

Farley's would phase out the tax over four years and Wasden's over three. Both say anticipated state revenue surpluses starting next year would allow that phase-in without raising any other taxes or harming programs.

DePaulis said he is also wary of Gov. Norm Bangerter's six-point tax- limitation plan that would freeze property taxes unless a vote of the people lifted the freeze. Bangerter made the plan a campaign promise.

"I know he (Bangerter) is compelled because of the campaign . . . but I would not want to see our taxes frozen," DePaulis said, adding the city would be "hamstrung" by a "back-door tax initiative that the Legislature put in."

DePaulis said making tax increases dependent on a referendum vote flies in the face of representative government, something Bangerter, a former legislator, should be aware of.

"That's what the mayor and the City Council are for," he said, adding that government leaders should be prepared to "take the heat" for unpopular tax-related decisions.