Tax Hike: bad idea

We are not in favor of a proposed sales tax increase in the name of funding housing and transportation strategies.

We couldn’t have said it better than the local Tea Party. Nice job, folks!


Here is a text version of the Tea Party’s new ad:

The Hole in One

Vote NO on the 1% tax!

The arguments being used to sell the 1% General Tax to Teton County voters, at best, are less than honest. At worst, they are reprehensible for trying to guilt us into voting for it. The claim is that if those not voting for the 1% are against housing and transportation; don’t care if Teton County workers live in cars, tents, or are just plain homeless; and will be responsible for all the traffic snarls at the “Y” intersection. Teton County residents should be outraged that some office holders and the nonprofits we already support are trying to guilt us into lavishing more funds on them and that they think us so naive that we can’t see the truth.

Let’s be clear: no one who opposes the 1% tax is against housing and transportation solutions. Once again, to make sure it is heard. NO ONE who opposes the 1% is against housing and transportation solutions.

Let’s review the many problems associated with the 1% tax and the misleading way it’s being sold.

  • The money collected will go into the general fund. The pledge signed by the elected officials to spend the funds on housing and transportation is not binding – not on themselves and not those who might replace them in the future. It may not even be legal to dedicate general funds for specific projects.
  • There is no guarantee that the 1% tax, unlike a SPET, will ever expire. It takes a simple vote by the town council or county commission to extend it indefinitely.
  • Is it a tax increase? Yes! Going from the state’s 4% base to 5% was an increase. Going from 5% to 6% – whether by SPET or this 1% tax is also an increase. And, there is every likelihood that the sales tax in Teton County will rise to 7% and stay there as new SPETs are piled onto the 1%.
  • Why give our electeds even more funds when they have demonstrated a lack of ability to manage the funds they have? Think of the projects funded without a bidding process or an agreed upon budget. Think about chronic cost over runs and failed deadlines on housing projects, pathways, the pathway bridge, projects approved without consideration for maintenance or operational costs, etc. The government appears unable to make tough choices and to distinguish between “wants” and “needs” in our community.
  • We frequently read in our local newspapers that county revenues have never been higher, thanks to ever increasing levels of tourism, even if state sources of revenue are declining. Do we really need the revenue from the 1% tax?
  • Proponents imply that without the 1% there will be no budget for housing and transportation. If this were true, from where did the funds for past projects come? And where are the funds for future projects under consideration? The budgets either exist or our electeds are spending money they don’t have, which would be even more irresponsible.
  • If the 1% tax is approved, every dollar previously earmarked for housing and transportation can be reallocated to other projects that elected officials find appealing. This windfall provides a new source of discretionary funds and is a very subtle and unstated effect of the 1% tax. Don’t believe for a second that there aren’t funds for housing and transportation in the existing budget or that such projects won’t be funded in the absence of the 1% tax. Wouldn’t you call it dishonest when your votes are courted without full disclosure?
  • Finally, who is Community Priorities Coalition that is supporting the 1% tax so vigorously. You won’t find them identified on their own web site. But they are the Friends of Pathways, Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, and Valley Advocates for Responsible Development. Now these are not bad people or bad organizations with bad causes. But why are they all lined up in a coalition to support the tax? Well, maybe they see a windfall of freed up budget funds as a new source of funding for themselves. In a time of supposed fiscal belt tightening, at least some of these organizations’ pet projects could be classified as “wants” and not “needs.”

So what can you do?

Well, obviously, vote against the 1% general sales tax. Force our electeds to be fiscally responsible, make tough decisions when necessary, and fully disclose all the ramifications of their budgets and funding requests.