I’m what conservatives like to call a “tax and spend liberal.”  I view taxes as participation in a public venture to provide the goods, services, and infrastructure which cannot be adequately addressed by the private sector.  We are in hard economic times – maybe climbing out of them a little – but budgets are short all over the state.  And even locally, the county and several municipalities are pushing sales tax increases, or extensions of previous increases otherwise ready to sunset.  Yes, these government entities are short on income, with community needs growing.

But it’s not the first time we’ve been here.  What I’ve noticed missing this time – the anti-tax brigades, usually conservatives.  Yes, there is a little grumbling in the conservative areas of the county, particularly where they are looking at more than one increase.  But mostly, their buddies are in power, and their buddies need these tax increases to save their own asses.  Apparently, this is one of those Grover Norquist exceptions – save your buddies’ asses.

The problem I have with sales taxes is that they’re regressive in that they disproportionately impact working class people, who spend most of their money rather than save or invest.  Obviously counties and municipalities can’t raise income taxes, but I scrutinize regressive taxes much more carefully than progressive.

As Ed Densen has pointed out, this measure is being marketed as earmarked for emergency services, road repair, etc. – all those services we can all agree on.  But as Ed noted, the impartial analysis measure itself says:

“The purpose of this sales and use tax ordinance is to establish a government funding mechanism for general County purposes and the County is not committing to a course of action with respect to the tax revenue” (Section 718-18) 

This means basically that the revenues will simply be dropped into the general fund.

Yes, there will be an “oversight committee” with no teeth, and will likely be stacked with current Board majority approved appointees anyway, as the majority has shown no hesitation to stack the Planning Commission with their partisans.  I don’t trust that process as far as I can throw a stick.

And quite frankly, I am concerned that the General Plan Update will put the county in jeopardy of lawsuits.  The prosecution and defense of pointless lawsuits have already taken a huge toll on the county’s finances, and continue to do so.  Supervisor Mark Lovelace (who endorses the Measure) has reported very little interest in compromise from the majority, who know they have their four votes and are simply muscling in changes to the GPU which are contrary to the public input originally gathered by the Planning Department and at this point the environmentalist community has pretty much given up on the process, are hanging back to see if the final product even meets federal and state minimum standards.  Perhaps it will, but given the process and the wholesale rewriting of the GPU with no systematized public input has me concerned about the final product.

Quite frankly I anticipate lawsuits and I don’t want to finance the defense with a regressive tax.  I don’t take this position lightly, and I am also concerned about the impact of finances.  But I don’t have the faith at this point to write those checks.

I say this knowing that there are plenty of progressive out there as frustrated as I with the process, but who believe that we have to pass the tax anyway in a sort of King Solomon test of love for the baby – we need those services.  I can’t join them this time around.  I simply do not share the priorities of the current majority and I have to assume that their priorities will be reflected in their spending.

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