“Half Baked” Tax Proposal put back in the oven for another year
“Half baked” – that is how Commissioner Steve Abrams described Bob Weisman’s proposal to put a $100M, half percent sales tax surcharge on the November ballot.
We agree. Even Commissioner Taylor, who seems to believe our money belongs to her (“We’re not exercising our RIGHT” to raise these taxes) thought the proposal needed a little more development.
Normally, county staff does a good job on budget proposals. We don’t always agree with their priorities, but they do offer justifications and complete analysis. This proposal seemed to drop out of thin air a week ago and postulated $100M more in revenues for unspecified “transportation” projects with no sunset. A vague suggestion of possible offsets to property taxes was contained in the agenda item, but there was no Powerpoint presentation, no forward projections, no discussion of the trends in existing transportation funding like the gas tax.
The commmissioners, to their credit, recognized the difficulty in selling such an open ended proposal and all wanted to table the issue until the staff could come back with a more thought-out package. Those that were OK with raising the sales tax (Taylor, Vana, Aaronson), wanted staff to return in a month so there would still be time to put it on the November ballot. Those not so keen on the idea (Burdick, Abrams, Marcus), preferred to table it until next year or indefinitely. Karen Marcus suggested that when the TriRail expansion occurs, we may need the money more than we do now. (Ouch !).
It is clear that if the proposal were to come back in a month, a lot of time and resources would have to be spent by TAB and others in order to develop counter arguments. With the budget workshops coming up in June, that would be a considerable distraction. It was starting to look at one point that we would have another 4-3 vote in that direction, but Commissioner Santamaria joined with the taxpayer-friendly commissioners to table the issue until next year.
Thank you to all who came to the meeting and spoke against the proposal, including Alex Larson, Pat Cooper, Fred and Iris Scheibl, Janet Campbell, Nancy Hogan, and Rick Roth.
TAB Note: The discussion of transportation funding has shined a light on the budget dynamics of Palm Tran, which we were astounded to learn is more than 90% subsidized. Since only a small part is ad-valorem funded, TAB has not paid it much mind in the past, but now it will get some scrutiny for sure.