John Brock: A time to do certain things but now not the time to raise sales tax

  • Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Surely you are familiar with the Ecclesiastical proclamation: To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose; A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to harvest; A time to cast away, and a time to gather; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away, etc.

One might argue that there is a time to establish new taxes — But, neighbors, this ain’t the time!

With families struggling to maintain a decent way of life, gas bringing almost $4 a gallon; prices of food, medical care, education, etc. constantly on the rise; and with through-the-roof unemployment rates higher here than in most parts of the nation, it simply makes so sense, common or otherwise, to place an additional burden on the shoulders of local folks by increasing the tax on almost every purchase.

I cannot imagine what got into the minds of County Council when they proposed a seventeen-percent increase in the sales tax rate for Georgetown County. But that’s exactly what will be the case if citizens approve a one-cent sales tax increase which is on the ballot for the November general elections.

I have to admire local elected officials’ shrewd Keynesian economic ploy which asserts that government can win popular support — by using citizen’s money through increased taxes — to promise something for everyone. This theory is often utilized by the federal government but rarely by local governing bodies.

If you look at the list of proposed uses for the $40 million the tax increase is alleged to produce, there is indeed something for each area of the county. They were cleverly chosen to enlist the support from many sections of the county and to appeal to certain demographic groups. I think my fellow citizens are much too smart to be deceived by such shenanigans. But thus is the nature of politics espoused by that leftwing economist John Maynard Keynes who asserted that government can buy the support of its citizens with their own money obtained through taxation.

The Georgetown County Capital Improvement Plan, sometimes referred to as “Visions” initiative, that was undertaken and promoted by civic and government groups several years ago was and is a noble cause. I even served on one of the groups challenged with the task of proposing certain advancements in a specific area of interest. But the local economy was much more prosperous then. The tax-paying local population was predicted to increase mainly because many smaller residential developments were in the making. Another mega-development was supposed to add thousands of new households to the county, thereby, increasing property tax income by millions of dollars. Furthermore, jobs were more or less plentiful and wages were decent in most cases. I never envisioned that these and other proposed expenditures would ever be financed via sales taxes. That was never the plan.

That was then and this is now. The population boom never materialized. And the economy crashed in what many have hailed as the worst collapse since the Great Depression. This economic event changed things in an overwhelming manner. As a result, families and individuals have had to dial back their lifestyles accordingly. Government, you might think, would be expected to do likewise. I cannot explain why the county solons didn’t get the same message the rest of us got.

Undoubtedly, the list of proposed projects that the projected $40 million anticipated by the sales tax increase will underwrite are worthy projects. I even helped in proposing some of them. But, friends, now is not the time to impose additional financial burdens on our neighbors by mandating that we all must pay an additional one percent for virtually every item we purchase. Now, I know, a mere penny doesn’t seem like a magnificent sum but it means that for every one hundred dollars we spend on taxable items the purchaser loses another dollar from the family budget. This is in addition to the existing six-dollars sales tax on every hundred dollars spent. Multiply that by the expenditure of thousands of dollars over a year and it adds up. It won’t destroy the lives of most individuals but it will make a difference.

The silliest argument for the increase has been, “Outsiders who come into our county as tourists, etc., will pay a substantial part of the increased tax.” It’s true that visitors will pay their share — for a day or week or two while they are here, but the rest of us will be paying the increased tax twelve months a year!

The only really pressing proposal for the anticipated funds is $5.5 million for the dredging of Winyah Bay. The port is significant for the economic life of the community but it can be handled by a multitude of other financial arrangements.

I am certain that we have competent leadership in our county who can come up with creative ways to finance the dredging without damaging the budgets of everyone in the county. One plan might be to let those who directly benefit from an accessible port facility bear the cost much as those of us who fly help finance the airports we take-off and land on through landing fees, etc. There are certainly other solutions to the problem.

In the meantime, we might have to forego for the immediate future the proposed basketball and tennis courts, recreation centers, park additions, additional libraries, road pavings, tee-ball pitching facilities, bikeways and other luxuries until families and individuals in Georgetown County are once again fully employed and enjoying decent prosperity.

To do otherwise is unthinkable.

John Brock is a retired newspaper editor/publisher and college professor. He can be reached by mail at this newspaper or by Email at: brock@johnbrock.com.

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