How to give up some freedom today: Let corporate welfare thrive
TRACKSIDE © by John D’Aloia Jr.
February 25, 2003
How can we give up a bit of freedom today? We can let politicians and The Clerks arrive at but one solution to any problem - big government and high taxes. Last week, Kansas legislators were delivered copies of the Legislative Post Audit 100-Hour Audit Report entitled "Financing Local Governments: Determining How to Avoid Future Problems Caused by Revenue Shortfalls." The audit and the report were requested by several senators after the last governor, best to remain nameless, in response to the budget deficit created by run-away spending, zeroed out the funds that by law were supposed to be transferred to local governments. The senators wanted an independent look at what could be done to prevent local governments from taking similar hits in the future.
What the senators got was a report that read as if it had been cribbed from a League of Kansas Municipalities’ document entitled "Critical Issues for Local Governments in 2003" - either that or Legislative Post Audit is a League puppet. Just about every LPA suggested option was also on the League’s list. Every option involved how to sock it to the local taxpayer so that government could live in the manner to which it has become accustomed. The list included: remove or raise caps on existing taxes and fees; broaden the base for sales taxes, property taxes, and motor vehicle taxes; allow local governments to redirect the use of "earmarked" taxes such as the transient guest tax and emergency phone 911 fee; allow new taxes such as local earnings or payroll taxes, seat taxes, corridor sales taxes, or local option excise taxes; allow cities to invest their idle funds in out-of-state banks; allow the posting of legal notices on the Internet instead of in newspapers; allow cities/counties to consolidate; allow video enforcement of stoplight violations; and allow local option gaming.
Did the audit report suggest that perhaps the state could cut spending so that the dollars would be available for transfer to the cities and counties as required by law? Did the report suggest that perhaps the state could reduce mandates on the cities and counties so that they would not have to spend so much? Did the report suggest that perhaps the state could cut back its taxing authority to give some leeway for local government? No way. What the report did do was give the League’s demands an official cachet and a degree of respectability that they do not deserve.
The poor city taxpayer does not have a chance when his tax dollars are used to support the League, which then uses the tax dollars to lobby for more government power and more tax dollars - and the legislature is served by a Legislative Post Audit office that can only offer options that give government more power and that enact more "revenue enhancements."
How can we give up a bit of freedom today? We can let corporate welfare thrive. HB2038, being considered by the Senate, would authorize the use of the state’s coercive power to tap our wallets to establish the Kansas Propane Education and Research Council so it could develop safety and education programs and projects. If having such an entity is a great idea, why does not the propane industry form it and fund it themselves? Why do they need it formed, figuratively, at the point of a gun? Could it be that there is no real need, other than to establish an empire? The Council would be funded by a 2/10 of a cent "assessment" per gallon of odorized propane forked over by the owner of the propane at time of odorization or upon the importation of odorized propane. The "assessment" could be raised to 3/10 of a cent per gallon. It was estimated that the "assessment" will raise $385,000.00 a year. These are dollars that the Council will have free rein to spend however it wants. The Legislative Research Department noted that the Council has no direct fiscal tie to the state and would not be considered a state agency. If enacted, all marketers and distributors of propane will be forced to contribute, whether they want to or not, and the consumer will end up funding the Council through higher prices - thank you much, Mr. Legislator.
A quick topic shift. The feds have been chastised for doing little or nothing to help citizens think through what they could do to help themselves "be prepared" for a terrorist attack. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security now has a web site (www.ready.gov) that has basic information about nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and the preparedness steps citizens can take. The Department’s brochure "Preparing Makes Sense: Get Ready Now" is a pdf download from the web site or copies may be requested at 1-800-BE-READY.
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