November Surprise: Yes to New Taxes

Here in Pasco County, on the north side of Tampa Bay, taxpayers seem about to commit heresy — again. We may vote for more taxes.

In 2004, county residents said yes to a one-penny county sales tax. Part of the goal was to lower property taxes as housing values here started to wash into the Gulf of Mexico, and the school district agreed to lower its take from local taxes. That penny tax is up for renewal in November’s election. This time backers of the Penny for Pasco tax are saying it could help hold the line on property tax increases, but that’s just a hope — there is no agreement for any lowering or freezing of other taxes.

I haven’t seen any polling on this local issue, but there’s a lot of support for the tax. Partly that’s because people can see exactly what they’re getting — and what they wouldn’t have if taxes remain lower. The tax, since 2004, has bought ambulances, park trails, road improvements, new schools and renovation of old schools, and land for environmental preservation. The extension of the tax would buy sheriff’s cruisers, new fire trucks, buses and bus shelters, renovation of fire stations, more school improvements, a countywide public safety communications system, and economic development efforts, among many other things.

Renewing the penny tax would generate $500 million over ten years, split among the county and school district, 45% each, with the remaining 10 percent going to the cities in the county. The money is to be spent on capital purchases and improvements, not operations.

A household with the county’s median income of $44,000 would spend about $108 each year through the penny tax.

When you see what your money gets you, it’s harder to buy a simplistic statement that taxes are bad, and we should have no new taxes.

I keep wanting President Obama to say that, if the Romney Ryan tax cuts go into effect, there will have to be huge cuts not just in Medicare and Pell grants, but in every single thing that people depend on in their daily lives. There will be fewer cops, fewer schools with bigger classes, fewer firefighters with fewer and worn-out trucks, fewer people to staff libraries and the functions of government people need, like getting drivers licenses. Huge federal cuts mean less money at the state level, and that means less money at the local level. Romney’s not being honest about what the RyanRomney budget would mean. When people see what their tax money provides, they realize that they can’t get something for nothing.

The Penny for Pasco is about “making life better in Pasco County,” backers say. “No new taxes” is just a politician’s glib slogan. The truth, in our lives, is about cops and libraries and schools and roads and sewers and safety and a government that can answer your emergency call.

You can’t cut without pain, no matter what some slick hustler tells you.

We’ll see what the voters of Pasco County decide on Nov. 6. I’m voting to raise my own taxes. Cuz I want more than a fire department that comes to my house on a bike with a bucket.

— Bruce Benidt

5 thoughts on “November Surprise: Yes to New Taxes

  1. Newt says:

    Bruce’s argument presupposes Pasco County has zero wasteful expenditures that could be redirected to basic services. (I could find $50 million/year in the first 10 pages of the employee phone directory.) And how much of this increase will go to subsidize pay raises and mismanaged municipal employee union pension funds?

  2. Newt, the fat is long gone. When library hours are cut and class sizes grow, our democracy is in trouble. And do you consider living up to the promise of a pension is a bad thing? And why do conservatives think public employees are parasites? Millionaires wrecked the economy, buddy, not teachers.
    Insult your local cop for being a taker not a maker next time you need him or her.

  3. Newt says:

    I agree Bruce – living up to a pension promise is a good thing.

    Which is why the unions need to manage their members’ pension funds so that taxpayers aren’t constantly being tapped to kick in, a second, third or fourth time.

    Rybak et al just raised Minneapolis property taxes again to cover underfunded obligations to municipal employee pensions. How fair is it that the firefighter that retires at 55 at 80% of his highest salary, with full health benefits, is squeezing the 85-year-old lady living on a fixed pittance?

    Municipal finance is broken. The only thing that will fix it is to starve the beast so we can revisit what our REAL civic priorities are.

    1. Bruce: I remember Obama at a point a few months after the stimulus went through being asked why he — aka The Government — wasn’t making more of an effort to tell voters, citizens/taxpayers that the fiber optic cable being buried along some road, the bridge getting re-built, etc. was because of this huge, controversial program? (What percentage of the public paid attention, much less understood that the “American Recovery … ” on those orange signs was “the stimulus”?)

      Obama’s response was semi-facetious. He asked, “What am I supposed to do, slap my picture on all these projects/” To which I’ve always said … “Yes! And don’t be shy about it”. (Take a clue from every mayor of Chicago.)

      Ditto your situation down there in the swamps. Part of the Pasco initiative should be some kind of immediately identifiable sticker on every new cop car, bridge, school desk, bike trail, etc. reminding our Low Information friends that taxpayer money isn’t routinely wasted and that they are getting an ROI at least as effective as the cash they sink into the nearest Miccosukee casino.

      1. Erik says:

        The shorter Lambo: Stimulus worked, economy fixed, but low info voters unaware without Hope stickers.

Comments are closed.