Are you ready for more taxes? I'm not.
As a small businessman and native of Lexington, I have witnessed other debates about tax policy over the years. In just about every case, when someone suggested raising the sales tax, they were trampled in the stampede to run away from the idea.
That's why the comparative silence associated with the current debate over the local option sales tax is shocking to me. Perhaps calling it "local option" makes it seem less like a tax.
Or, it's simply that the voices of dissent are being drowned out by applause from the tax-and-spend, pro-big government politicians who think separating you from your money is good economic policy.
No matter how you present "local option," it's still a strategy for putting more money in the city treasury and less in your pocket. It's seems to me that what little discussion we've heard focused on what it will buy, not how it will impact our city and the local economy.
The Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform addressed the local option sales tax in the report it released in December. That report raised a lot more questions than it answered.
However, the commission could not have been more clear when it examined who is positively and negatively impacted by the local option sales tax. The groups positively impacted are "advocates for increased local government funding." The groups negatively impacted are "anyone who purchases items under the local option sales tax."
Looks to me like the politicians benefit and we pay. And as politicians are inclined to do, they are enticing us with the promise of a better future if we will only give them more taxing power.
And what are the enticements? Sewer improvements? Better roads? Lower payroll or property taxes?
No, those items are much too mundane. The enticement has to be the biggest, shiniest, most desirable projects — a new Rupp Arena or a Town Branch Commons.
I want great things and more for my community, but the last thing that we need to do is raise taxes and pull more money out of the hands of citizens and the local economy. Raising taxes does not improve our local economy; it only depresses it.
Everyone who lives and works in Lexington is already paying more and sacrificing to keep local government afloat.
Police and firefighters were asked to sacrifice benefits. We have fewer police officers on the streets, and we're being subjected to fire station brownouts. Public employees are sacrificing with furloughs and future changes in their pension programs.
Not to mention the special fees we are paying for long-delayed sewer repairs mandated by the federal government, while under the threat of more fines by the Environmental Protection Agency.
With all these issues, why are we even discussing new taxes for new projects?
The local option sales tax idea is simply a way for politicians to make us believe we can have it all, including flashy projects like a new Rupp Arena or Town Branch Commons.
At some point, a discussion about the local option sales tax might make sense. Maybe after we've gotten the city on a firm fiscal foundation. After we've satisfied the EPA. After we've caught up on payments to pension funds. After we've met other obligations already on the books.
It's time to speak up, Lexington, and say no to the local option sales tax.
At issue: Feb. 13 Herald-Leader article "Lexington, Louisville mayors urge action on pensions, taxes"