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Hooked on sales tax cash

Posted: October 4, 2011 - 12:03am

It has always been curious to me that municipalities and organizations rarely save up money beforehand to do special projects, and pay cash for them. What usually happens is a bond issue is “forced” upon taxpayers, upon which the municipality goes into debt for the project and taxpayers pay, as part of bond retirement, millions of dollars in interest — on top of the project cost.

Years ago in Juneau, I remember the breath-of-fresh-air concept of paying for the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool by first taking a “temporary” sales tax to the voters. It was approved, money collected, pool paid for, tax eliminated. There have been other projects over the years like that (if my memory is correct — the original Eaglecrest Ski Area).

Now I see that we are voting on continuing the “voluntary” sales tax. Only now I see that it has become a slush fund for bureaucratic expenditures. In other words, I fear that Juneau, like all government bureaucracies, has gotten used to spending the money (it’s difficult for any government to live within its means, especially when people have come to look to government for all provisions and solutions for our lives — shame on us), and what used to be a legitimate voluntary tax for voter-approved projects has just become a slush fund for the city to keep on spending. Sure, a lot of the expenditures are necessary, but it appears much of it is general operation, or non voter-approved causes.

Since they are now used to the revenue, if we vote not to extend the 3 percent to 4 percent “temporary” taxes, my guess is they will raise the permanent tax from 1 percent in order to continue the funds they have gotten used to spending on all the things listed in the ballot, and the whole purpose of the “temporary” tax levy is now lost.

Stan Love

Juneau

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