In the name of dogma, we're watching the slow destruction of American infrastructure that was the shining and crowning achievement of the last century.
It's a great idea to cut taxes where you can. There aren't many sectors of this economy where raising taxes would be a good idea. Things are so fragile that even the increase in the price of gasoline that's going on right now (created by the oil companies reducing production in their plants, thank you), could stall what little recovery we've started to see from the Great Recession.
But elected leaders need to look beyond their dogma to the impacts of what they're doing.
Congress went on vacation rather than deal with the issue of sequestration (it will return the day a decision MUST be made), which is simply another self-created fiscal cliff. If sequestration kicks in, it will be a disaster. Federal employees will take pay cuts, meaning they won't be spending money on Main Steet. Critical federal services will be curtailed. Don't be surprised if some national parks shut down for the tourist season.
And the military will take a hit like no enemy has been able to inflict. Ships, planes, tanks that break down won't be repaired. Training, the thing that has made us the best military in the world, will be sharply reduced. Troops will be let go and told to enter a job market that has no jobs to give them. All this because of a mindless mantra of cutting government that uses a meat cleaver rather than a scalpel.
At the state level, that same dogma is showing up with the proposal to eliminate the personal property tax. In a better economy, with a little leeway and pad in local government budgets, that might be possible. It isn't now, with every local government stretched to the limit trying to provide basic services. They can't take another hit in revenue.
The legislature is considering allowing local governments the right to make up the loss with local levies. But it's just a tax shift in which you, the individual, could wind up paying the taxes the businesses are paying now, and it comes with some not only some tough strings attached to local governments, but also isn't likely to raise the same amount as what would be lost.
So, as an example, rather than Idaho Power paying taxes based on 55 percent of their equipment, such as the two gas-fired power plants in Elmore County, you get to pick up that tab directly instead, in the form of an increased local tax (but no, not a state tax -- the legislature will pat itself on the back for "lowering" taxes that it never levied in the first place).
But those local "replacement" levies will be authorized only if the county commissioners give their approval to any local government in the county that needs a levy increase to make up for the massive loss in funding that repeal of the personal property tax will have on cities, schools, water districts, sewer districts, library districts, fire districts, weed abatement districts, pest abatement districts, etc. And at that, the replacement levies will only represent a fraction of the revenues lost. And, of course, the counties themselves will get hit. They'll be asked to pick up the services some cities may eliminate (such as law enforcement protection), while seeing their own revenues decline.
You wonder if any of the legislators ever passed basic high school government, or how long it's been since any of them sat in on a local government budgeting session.
These governments can't take the hit right now and the token fraction of the loss that the state has offered to make up is like throwing a rubber bone to a starving dog -- it looks good but it's worthless.
The city of Mountain Home planned well during the Great Recession. It managed to retain basic services, not have any layoffs, and still provide about $67,000 to local community groups that needed some subsidy help, like the senior center, the youth center and a few other groups.
If the legislature approves the repeal as currently proposed, the city will lose $442,000. The subsidies to local groups (such as the senior center's Meals on Wheels), which are so vital to those organizations, will be gone. No choice. Some staff may have to be let go (adding to state unemployment and welfare costs). Again, no choice.
Services will be cut. The parks will start to deteriorate. Needed repairs to buildings and equipment won't be made. Road repairs will fall even further behind. The entire infrastructure will start to come apart, and that's for just one small city that's been well managed. Some cities may disincorporate. School districts will see class sizes climb even higher than they are now. Fire districts won't be able to replace aging equipment. The list of disasters goes on.
Right now, the only way to avoid it, is for citizens to step up and let their elected leaders at the state and federal level know that we expect them to use that thing on their shoulders for more than a hat rack.
Get rid of the dogma. Cancel the mantras. Start thinking about the impacts of what you're doing. It's not all about big business. It's about little people's lives.
-- Kelly Everitt