Tread lightly, don't tramplePosted Wednesday, January 9, 2013, at 8:32 AM
The cold, hard truth about government is that it costs money.
Whenever the people ask for a service, someone has to pay for it.
As a rule of thumb, the more responsive governments are at the local level. It's easier to get to local officials if there's a problem (getting harangued in grocery stores by disgruntled citizens isn't uncommon). It's also easier to spot if there's any significant waste of funds. They have to publish their budgets in the local paper for everybody to see, and if they misuse the money you can bet somebody will notice. As a result, there's usually not a stunning amount of wasted tax dollars at the local level.
The problems get worse the higher you go, until by the time you get to the federal level not even Congress knows what's in the budgets they passed, the Government Accounting Office has no idea what the books really look like and, unless you're a lobbyist, it's not easy to get some one-on-one face time with the politicians to tell them what you think.
So, in general, the more local control the better, in many important ways.
Local control has been the election mantra of a lot of legislators, then they take it away when they actually get down to business and hope you don't notice. They took away school district O&M levies, leaving local boards more reliant on the state. Cities and counties have seen more and more of their funding sources coming to them with strings attached.
That's why repeal of the personal property tax is so important. On the one hand, it will save businesses, farmers and ranchers millions of dollars in taxes that they can use for either their personal or business benefits. It's a significant tax cut for them -- and these days all tax cuts look good.
But it also will cut significantly into local government services ("this pothole sponsored by the Idaho Legislature"). Most of those governments don't have much pad left in them anymore. They'll lose staff (road maintenance crews, law enforcement, teachers, etc.), have to cut hours of service and delay replacement of old equipment. With so little pad in their budgets, whatever they do will hurt. You will notice.
The repeal will have no effect on the state, which doesn't levy a property tax. It's only local governments that will be affected.
Local governments are the heart and soul of "how things work" in Idaho. The legislature should be very leery of doing anything that will cripple them. Each legislator needs to make sure they talk to each head of each local government unit in their area and be certain they understand what those governments face before getting carried away with the "we cut taxes" mantra. Because some cuts will cost you in the long run.
Tread lightly in looking at these cuts. Don't trample local governments merely for dogma.
-- Kelly Everitt
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