Opinionated @ CFE

A Tax By Any Other Name

Feb
15

Local governments all around are facing some tough times and Salt Lake County is no different. The county had to make some deep cuts, over 17%, to make ends meet. Certainly lean times lead to creative solutions, but I’m not so sure about the way that the Unified Police Department has chosen to go about it.

As you may have read, the UPD has decided to implement a fee for police service to be collected once a quarter. This fee is about $174 per year. That in and of itself isn’t that big of a deal to me. What is a big deal is the manner in which this fee is being collected and the manner in which the county is trying to spin it. Call it a fee, a surcharge, or whatever you want, it’s still a tax.

What’s particularly laughable is that this fee is being billed as somehow much more transparent than an annual property tax statement. On the contrary, it’s even less so. My property tax statement contains line items for each service that I am receiving. I can, at a glance, figure out how much I pay for fire, library, and even garbage service. If the increase cost of policing were, instead, listed as a line item on my property tax bill, I would still know exactly what I’m paying for police service. By keeping it on a separate statement, however, I now have to start adding up various bills to figure out just how much my local government costs. Making a taxpayer do more work to figure out what they are paying and what it is for is less transparency, not more.

It’s also a non-argument that using fees instead of taxes gives the county more flexibility. If the county can’t implement flexible taxation based on residence type or the number of employees at a business, then it’s time to ask the legislature to make changes to the law. I agree in principle that businesses that create higher police costs should bear a higher portion of the burden. (You may also notice that apartments are charged more than homeowners, a tacit admission that single-dwelling units cause less crime.) It’s also a good thing to have non-profits contributing at least something to the costs of running the county. Just don’t use fees as a end-run around legislative roadblocks. That kind of behavior doesn’t solve the problem and, more often than not, incurs the wrath of the legislature with retaliatory new laws.

When Anger Trumps Reason

Feb
14

Apparently the tea party movement in Nevada has gotten to a point where they want to register as a third party and run a candidate of their own for US Senate. Given the anger at establishment Republicans, I can’t say that I’m too surprised. That is, until you consider that a third party, the Independent American Party, already exists in Nevada with ballot access, over 4% of total active registered voters, and a platform not too terribly far from where the tea party crowd stands.

It seems like rather bad strategy to forge ahead down the path of a new party when you could simply build on the momentum of a party that already has the same goal no baggage, and a large number of registered voters. (The IAP also has a lot of street cred since they lead initiative petitions to overturn a record tax increase and stop public employee double-dipping.) Anger has trumped reason in Nevada tea party activists.

Howard Stephenson, Hypocrite

Feb
12

Sen. Howard Stephenson, president of the Utah “Taxpayers” Association, finds himself in the middle of picking market winners and losers in Paul Rolly’s latest column. Apparently our lobbyist senator pressured a purchasing committee to pick a favored vendor even going so far as to have the RFP re-written to be tailor made for the company. Now the company is bankrupt and the state is out $3.5M with nothing to show for it. And yet, this same Senator and the organization he heads spend an awful lot of time talking about how UTOPIA is unfair market competition and how the free market should rule.

Howard Stephenson, you’re a hypocrite.

Bob Bennett Doesn't Get It

Feb
02

Bob Bennett is in the fight of his political career. Several strong candidates are pushing a fierce intra-party challenge that has forced “Bailout Bob” to fight strong and hard to hold onto that Senate seat. Bennett, however, doesn’t seem to really understand why people are so upset with him.

What America is tired of is Beltway politics. Bob Bennett, however, actively plays the game. Not only does he play it, he excels at it and even enjoys it. That just isn’t playing very well with the voting public anymore. We’re all tired of the same old Washington games, we’re tired of establishment politics, and we’re tired of powerful interests getting special favors. What’s too bad for Bennett is that his record shows that he’s been all over that action.

That’s what makes his reaction all the more ineffective. He (or his campaign team) has misidentified the problem as being perceived either as too liberal or not conservative enough. As a result, Bennett has taken to jumping onto the tea party bandwagon everywhere he can. I don’t think that’s going to work so well. Signing the Club for Growth pledge and talking endlessly about the Constitution rings hollow so long as he’s racking up endorsements from establishment politicos like Newt Gringrich at fancy fundraisers.

And that’s the proof positive that Bob Bennett doesn’t get it.

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