High-Tech Pigs in a Cellular Trough
While the growth of the federal government gets most of the attention from people who care about things like that, the size and budgets of local governments are growing rapidly as well. While this is probably true around the nation, there is an article in today’s Post-Dispatch (link via Combest) that unintentionally illustrates this fact for Missouri quite well.
The article regards the recent settlements of the tax disputes between cell phone companies and local governments in Missouri. We have written about this before, and I will repeat that it seems sensible to me that a tax on land lines should also apply to cell phones. To sum up quickly, the cell phone companies have now agreed to collect the tax and pay back taxes, too, which will result in both a temporary windfall and a new revenue stream for many local governments in Missouri.
The Post-Dispatch interviews seven different officials from the St. Louis area as to what they plan to do with the new money. All seven are eager to spend it in various ways, easily demonstrating why local government grows as it does. Not one of the seven officials interviewed even mentions lowering taxes in their community as a response to the increase in tax money available. Not a friggin’ one of them! And we wonder why government keeps growing, and why it is so hard just to get a simple reassessment rollback? Apparently, our local officials like to spend money just as much as the national officials.
Now, I really don’t have a problem with officials spending the back-tax windfall; I object to the basic assumption that all future money from the tax will also be spent without even considering lowering the tax in question. Most of the planned expenditures from the windfall seem to be in the area of transportation, which is honestly as good an area as any to use it. How about this statement from Mayor Slay’s office (emphasis added in all below quotes):
Ed Rhode, a spokesman for Mayor Francis Slay, said repairing bridges was a likely priority although that would be up to budget deliberations with aldermen and the Estimate Board for the fiscal year beginning in July. He said future revenue from the 10 percent tax, one of the highest in the area, could shore up city pensions.
And they wonder why more people don’t want to move into the city? On top of a local income tax, you get the highest telephone utility tax in the area. And when the tax base is expanded, officials don’t even consider lowering the overall rate to benefit everyone. But when a large corporation wants to move in, officials give away the entire store to them in the hope of potential long-term returns. Its just insane.
I don’t mean to pick on the city here; others are just as bad. I can sense the Wildwood city administrator frothing at the mouth over the new money:
Wildwood’s city administrator, Daniel Dubruiel, says the fact that cell phone firms will pay the tax from now on is more significant than the city’s $1.2 million settlement payout. "I’m much more interested in the long-term effect," he said.
Perhaps now they can give a pay raise to Wildwood’s SIXTEEN members of the board of aldermen. That works out to one member of the board of aldermen for every cul-de-sac in Wildwood. Articles like this make me wish that local officials also ran in partisan elections, so at least we could have an idea whether one of them cared about lower taxes and smaller government. (Note: I don’t really wish for partisan local elections just for one person on a city council somewhere in St. Louis County to care less about local government and its employees, and more about the taxpayers.)