Communities eager for new taxes to ‘help’ their constituents

I know it’s the flu season, but I had no idea that bad ideas were so contagious.

A quick review of news stories from around the state made me realize some local politicians should start wearing those Michael Jackson surgical masks.

There’s something about a certain kind of official that, when the economy gets rough, the first idea that bubbles up is that they need more taxes to give their constituents things they can’t afford — because they’re paying really high taxes.

Some might be able to care for themselves, if they had jobs, but there are fewer jobs because businesses are leaving — because of really high taxes.

So it’s obvious, if you want to help these people out, you need to raise taxes. And that’s a lot of work, so you will need to hire some staff to get it done.

I recently heard a report of a new case of this puzzling disorder arising in the Montrose area, where that city is thinking of creating a downtown development authority and/or business improvement district.

Some reports from Montrose indicate that businesses are moving from downtown and some people feel that improving the area might draw folks back.

Possibly a good idea. Maybe a group of private citizens who are directly affected should get together, throw some money into a hat and see what they could do to remedy the situation.

Sadly that’s not the solution being proposed. Instead it is — wait for it — the formation of a new taxing district.

But Rick, you might say, this area is a vital and important part of the city and it is in the interest of all the citizens to see it maintained.

Alright, then shouldn’t the city prioritize existing tax dollars toward its improvement, since it will be of benefit to all city taxpayers?

If it’s such a hot idea, the investment of tax dollars should reap increased retail sales and might actually generate more sales tax revenue than the cost of the project.

If that were the case, surely someone would be interested in financing such a lucrative municipal bond.

This doesn’t seem to be the plan. In a sadly unsurprising move, the plan is to create a separate taxing district. The accompanying report even includes an attached Action Matrix! (I added the exclamation point as part of the excitement) full of fluffy words like “dialogue,” “stakeholders” and “retail enhancement funds.” It also lists as one of its action items, “to develop a city position to work with downtown. It lists a measurement of success as “performance objectives for downtown liaison.”

That sounds great; I really see the importance now. But, hey, these guys aren’t alone and it’s not even the worst idea.

The Durango Herald reported that La Plata County just narrowly turned down the formation of a special taxing district for the purpose of installing solar electric systems. If you think that was too silly to consider, folks in Pitkin, Eagle and Gunnison counties have already approved similar programs.

Boulder, not surprisingly was the first county to approve such a measure.

If these are such great ideas, why doesn’t some company or group of individuals looking to make money finance them?

The answer is simple: Chances are they will never make any money and no one will willingly cut loose of their own funds to make it happen.

So what do these groups seeking special taxing districts really want?

They want the government’s power to coerce.

They don’t believe in the power of the marketplace, but they do believe in the power to force money from individuals with the threat of property seizure and, in some cases, a little jail time if you don’t pay up.

To them, private individuals do not know what’s in society’s best interest. They need to be guided and, failing that, compelled.

A little of that goes a long way. The power of the state is like nitroglycerin: useful in the smallest quantity necessary, but too much of it should never be stored in one place.


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