Why no tax decrease ballot issues?
In the last five Eagle County general elections, 37 tax proposals have been put forth for the voters to decide. Not one, mind you, was an altruistic offer from our local government leaders to decrease taxes.Shocked?Of course not, because that would conflict with everything we have ever been taught or, more importantly, actually learned about government (civics classes don’t count) since we were old enough to scrounge up a few pennies to finish paying “extra” for that candy bar. Face it, taxes (along with its cohort, death) are as certain as evolution but completely man-made. In America, we are even taxed for dying while some in Happy Valley are dying to tax us even more.Taxes never go away, they just get added to. Sure, they might appear to go on a diet in the form of reduced mill levies, but the wool is pulled over no one’s eyes when their property valuations put on all that extra weight. And the bill of goods sold as a tax cut is a simple lateral shift in the levy load from one segment onto the backs of another, less favorable-at-the-moment segment.There are exceptions, of course, but they are as few as current Jon Benet suspects. Just a few weeks ago, our federal government actually abolished a tax. Yes, you read that right: The Bush administration grabbed the carcass of a 3 percent federal excise tax on long-distance service and promptly buried it in the old taxes graveyard, which is a very lonely place.Congress had voted to repeal the tax way back in early 2000, but it was quickly vetoed by Clinton to continue funding pizza and cigar parties in the Oval Office. The one thing you might find a tad quirky about it, though, is that the tax was originally established as a “luxury” tax on wealthy Americans who owned telephones. It was put in place to help pay for the Spanish-American War. Yep, in 1898.The war, and the then-justifiable need for funding, lasted less than six months, yet our federal government has continued to collect the tax for the past 108 years. In fact, at one point it was even raised to 10 percent, but then lowered back again a few years later.So although all taxes are not certain, it sure takes one helluva long time for any of them to be six feet under.What we are looking at so far this November is three tax issues to be decided by the voters of Eagle County. There could be more added before the ballots are official, so we’ll just have to sip our coffee and wait for the full effect.For the record, not one of the three is offering to decrease our tax burden.Eagle County wants somewhere between $2-3 million per year in new taxes to support existing child care and preschool programs. This is the ever-growing in popularity “babysitting” tax that so many in TIPSline and such feel compelled to share their happy thoughts about each day.To paraphrase an atheist, this one doesn’t have a prayer.The Eagle Valley Library District wants as much as $15 million in new taxes to expand libraries in Avon and Eagle, and maybe even build a new one in Gypsum.I read seven nights a week and have a small library at my house that helps encourage my children to read, but unless they start pumping up valid reasons with the intensity of, oh, let’s say a “Friends of Vail,” campaign, it doesn’t have a chance either.Last, at this point, is the Eagle County School District’s request for $128 million to build a new high school at Edwards, remodel the one in Eagle, and lots of other stuff including a few million for the Eagle Valley Charter Academy.I’ve had one child go K-12 and another, so far, K-9 in this school district, and my complaints and concerns have been minimal. However, they are simply asking for too much at one time for anyone to give the district’s individual issues any serious consideration.Out of the 37 tax increase proposals over the last five Novembers, 24 passed (65 percent), but I am afraid all three of these will fall from grace quicker than UFO-Bob can spot more nighttime hikers south of Beaver Creek.Oh, and about that tax the Feds abolished: Well, they used their combined infinite wisdom to eliminate the long-distance portion of the tax, but decided to keep the taxes levied on local services. Although completely unjustified, it’s worth billions each year to the federal coffers.Old habits die hard, I suppose.Richard Carnes of Edwards writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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