Tax-and-spend becomes borrow-and-spend
It’s fascinating how Marion and Marion County constantly profess having plenty of money. They can buy buildings and cars and tractors and all manner of other things. They can give out huge raises, golden parachute clauses, and benefits. They even can offer exorbitant mileage reimbursement based not on operating costs (which the IRS puts in the 20-cent range) but on depreciation of vehicles (which adds almost 40 cents a mile to the rate).
At the same time, both are pleading poverty by announcing plans to raise taxes beyond so-called revenue-neutral budgeting and to go even deeper into debt than state law normally would allow.
Yes, we need better streets and roads. But at what cost? Both the city and county seem as intent on employing a loophole about exceeding credit limits, without the adult supervision of putting the issue before voters, as a kid maxing out credit cards at Christmas and planning to make only minimum monthly payments for the rest of his or her life.
If city or county residents want better streets and roads badly enough, give them the opportunity to vote on the issue, then use the money exactly as specified, paying off the debt as quickly — rather than as slowly — as possible.
In Marion’s case, it needs to repay money voters intended to be devoted to industrial park improvements rather than siphon off yet more of that money for other purposes. It also needs to have a frank discussion whether it’s creating an industrial park or an industrial parking lot with some of its recent land sales.
In the county’s case, perhaps it’s time to consider seeking permission for alternatives, such as special assessments for neighboring property owners and special fuel taxes and special registration fees for heavier vehicles that do most of the damage to county roads. At minimum it needs to seriously question whether maintenance is being performed to established standards.
Managing the county or the city by spending every cent that can obtained today, with little thought about paying it back tomorrow, may work — but only for politicians who don’t plan to be around when the bills come due.
If we expect government to instantly solve all of our problems, it will — and in the process create many more, including huge bills we taxpayers ultimately will foot in soaring sales, property, and income taxes.
— ERIC MEYER