Tax cuts tip against the scales of justice

A refund check of $530 from Mesa County won’t go far toward putting more people to work — at The Daily Sentinel or any of the other businesses in the county that has received a reimbursement for the county’s share of business personal property and equipment taxes.

But the combined total of the 2,141 refund checks the county issued — $452,000 — would cover the cost of an investigative team and other services that will be eliminated at the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office as a result of cuts in the county budget. Or it could pay for several of the dozen sheriff’s deputy positions that will be lost in the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.

Despite being among the beneficiaries of the county’s tax refund, we believe using the money to reduce the cuts to law enforcement would be a better investment for this community.

We don’t mean to suggest that the county commissioners are doing something wrong. This is a clear ideological divide.

The commissioners — especially Craig Meis and Janet Rowland — have made it clear since they were first elected that they believe reducing the tax burden on individuals and businesses alike is critical to maintaining a robust economy. They have said that reducing the business personal property tax is one of their goals. They have kept their word and deserve credit for that.

However, that doesn’t mean residents of Mesa County can’t question the wisdom of doling out small refund checks to businesses while public-safety forces in the county are being reduced.

Many economists believe some tax cuts, when large enough to allow businesses to hire more people, can help stimulate the economy. But it’s hard to envision much effect on the local economy when the largest county refund check will barely cover 1 percent of the cost of a moderately paid employee’s salary and benefits.

Certainly, there are items in government, in private business, in family finances that can be eliminated when income drops. In Colorado, most state and local government entities have already done a fair amount of cutting since the recession began almost two years ago. But, not all government spending is waste. Far from it. At some point, the cuts have consequences for the people who are served by these governments.

Mesa County residents will be seeing significant cutbacks in services in the coming year due to diminishing revenue, as The Daily Sentinel’s Mike Wiggins outlined in Sunday’s paper.

With those large cuts looming, the commissioners could have made a strong case to county residents for postponing refunds in the business personal property tax.


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