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Sunday, February 15, 2009

There’s Nothing ‘Logical’ About Continuing SPLOST

So the Times editorial board thinks that continuing the extra 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is ‘logical.’ What is logical about government, at any level, continuing to tax and spend at the same, or higher, rate when its citizens are suffering under a recession and must reduce their own spending? When the public is cutting back, governments should be as well. Of course, governments should be operating with the tightest budget as possible at all times, but this is especially the case when the economy slows down.

Also, the argument that “40% of money paid into SPLOST will come from people who live outside of Hall County,” (as the Times put it) as another reason to support SPLOST, is not very logical. Presumably, governments in surrounding counties present this same argument when proposing their own SPLOST. (All nine counties bordering Hall have a 1% SPLOST. Gwinnett has only a 6% sales tax rate. It contains a SPLOST but not a LOST.) Therefore, whatever we may save in taxes by having non-Hall residents support our SPLOST, we probably spend supporting theirs.

Also, there is hardly a mention of how the 40% number is figured. “Officials estimate” is the phrase that is always used, but we’re never really told where they get the number. I’ve heard that the number comes from the fact that 40% of the daily workforce in Hall County is non-residents. If this is the case, I doubt very seriously that this number is anywhere close to accurate.

Along with the Times editorial in Sunday’s paper, Emily Bagwell and Cooper Embry of Hall Progress, who are both on the executive committee of the Hall County Chamber of Commerce, also had a column in support of SPLOST. One suspicious argument they use in favor of SPLOST is the fact that the millage rate in Hall County has decreased by 18% “from 2002 to today.” This is very misleading.

It is true, according to my own records, that the 2008 millage rate, at 24.43 mills, was less than the 2002 rate of 25.22 mills (although not by 18%). However, if we look at the millage rate year by year, along with the property tax that was actually paid, we get a more accurate picture. The following table, created from my own personal records, shows the overall millage rate for Hall County for the years 2002 to 2008, along with the rate of increase in what I actually paid:

Year
Millage Rate
% Increase in Amount I Actually Paid
2008
24.43
2.7%
2007
23.77
6.6%
2006
25.55
3.5%
2005
24.66
4.8%
2004
23.50
14.0%
2003
22.80
--
2002
25.22
--


(I didn’t include the 2002 to 2003 increase because our home was not complete during those assessments.)

As you can see, even though the millage rate decreased in some years, it rose in others. Yet even with millage rate decreases in some years, due to higher assessments I continued to pay more in property taxes. Some of these assessment increases came during times when home values were plummeting.

SPLOST supporters will argue that my increases would have been more if not for the SPLOST. However, it is unlikely that voters would have supported many, if any, of the SPLOST projects through increases in their millage rates.

Governments at every level will usually spend whatever the electorate will allow them. It is time for the frivolous spending and the ridiculous over-spending at all government levels to cease.

Philosopher and teacher Adam Smith, widely regarded as the father of modern economics, said “What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.” In other words, if my family is required to live within its means, even when times turn for the worse, this should be true of government as well.

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

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