Dull Old Saw

The old saw is that it is very easy to start a war, but not so easy to end one. ‘Nuff said given the longest war America has ever been engaged in still is not over. And children wonder how the “Hundred Years War” could have gone on, for 100 years! Analysis finds that underlying the old saw is the propensity to continue with an institution well after the best if used by date. How many “antiquated” laws are still on the books, which folks chuckle over when some media author bothers to point out their inanity in today’s times? How many political policies are pursued for the same reasons of habit, custom or just plain old conformist sloth (It’s always been done that way)? In addition to the inertia, there’s also obsession. “Texas Cities Are Worried Republicans Pushed Tax Cuts Too Far” by Lauren Etter, for the online Bloomberg Business (March 3, 2015) critically exemplifies this “life of it’s own” obsession that ignores the whys and wherefores of the original intentions. “Energized by an expanded majority in the Texas legislature, Republicans want to slash billions from homeowners’ taxes. That may squeeze funding for local governments that have borrowed $205 billion for roads, schools and infrastructure as Texas added more residents than any other state.” “Localities have borrowed to fill the gap. Of the 10 most-populous states, only New York has more local debt per resident, according to figures from the Texas Bond Review Board. The debt of Texas local governments swelled by 75 percent over the past decade, according to the state’s figures, as officials poured more money into public works.” “While Williamson County’s property-tax increases last year wouldn’t have exceeded the 4 percent limit lawmakers may impose, its officials are wary of how the proposal would tie their hands in the future. “It’s extremely difficult to keep up with the growth in the demand for services when we have a capped rollback rate,” said Larry Gaddes, the county’s chief deputy tax assessor. The property taxes of about one-third of 1,000 Texas cities would have exceeded that limit in 2013, according to the Texas Municipal League in Austin, which lobbies on behalf of local governments. If the cap were in place, it would cost McKinney, a Dallas suburb, $1.4 million, enough to pay salaries and benefits for 11 police officers and firefighters, according to the league. Midland, in the western oil fields, would lose $300,000. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said the tax-cut plans circulating in Austin would limit cities’ growth. About 61 percent of the city’s budget is for public safety, so efforts to limit revenue growth would “be on the backs of our police and firefighters,” he said. “But it would also affect quality-of-life issues like parks and libraries.”” The state of Texas has no individual income tax. Dialectic infers that for every tax cut there is a tax increase somewhere. Writing for Pew’s Stateline, Elaine S. Povich provides exactly that in a piece entitled “GOP Governor’s Tax Plan Drawing Attention Of Cash-Strapped States And Cities” (3-5-15). “An exemption from paying local property taxes, which applies to all Maine nonprofits, helps Freeport Community Services serve more people. But that exemption would end under Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s new budget proposal. The governor’s plan, which would hit groups ranging from nature preserves and summer camps to charity hospitals and private colleges, is drawing the attention of other cash-strapped states and cities where the idea of taxing nonprofits is no longer off limits. LePage wants to lower the income tax from 7.95 percent to 5.75 percent and increase the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.5 percent while extending it to new goods and services. The state would no longer share about $60 million in revenue with local governments, but it would make up for at least some of that lost revenue by requiring cities and towns to levy property taxes on 50 percent of the value of nonprofit-owned real estate valued at more than $500,000.” In a breakdown of states and their number of nonprofits/assets provided by Pew, Ohio is no slouch. It is shown to have 63,178 nonprofits with assets valued at 185.7 billion (that’s with a “B”, Mr. Hottinger) This puts it way ahead of all of its neighboring states save Pa. Both of these articles speak directly to the situation the City of Newark finds itself in. The Republican mayor champions his ability to utilize federal funding to hire new fire fighters while his party cuts federal spending and continues to diminish state support for city infrastructure/safety forces. The streets go unpaved, the bridges unrepaired, the water/sewer lines wait while the west side expands (which will only be accelerated by the Cherry Valley interchange), as also the north side with the new Newton township annexation near the Trout Club. City services must be provided for the new while taxes must be cut for the sake of a party’s national election strategy. Analysis finds that this old saw is a bit dull. “Cutting taxes”, with the obsession it has become, is costing us way too much in the everyday.

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