We all know that tax hikes are cool to help private industry, especially sports teams. But to fund government? Wot? Out of the Wild West comes evidence that taxpayers are fiercely attached to government services. So much so that they'll raise their own taxes to ensure their dependence on Big Brother continues. Todd Finkelmeyer reports:
On Tuesday in Arizona, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 100 -- a temporary, 1 percent sales tax increase to help the state overcome massive budget woes and avoid sharp cuts to education and other services. The increase bumps Arizona's sales tax to 6.6 percent over the next three years, a move that is expected to bring in about $900 million in the first year.
Ironic. Apparently tossing all those illegals over the border isn't going to lower the cost of living in the Grand Canyon State. Nevertheless, what is the formula for a successful tax increase?
Howard Schweber, a UW-Madison political science professor, notes there is a good deal of data showing that even voters who describe themselves as anti-tax still will support tax hikes if they feel assured the money will be spent in a way they approve.
Hence schools, and Wisconsin's Penny For Kids program. Then there's the Regional Transit Authority, which will likely put a half cent sales tax increase to fund expansion of the bus system or commuter rail. People in Dane County will support such a plan, because the referendum offers them the assurance of knowing exactly what they'll pay and a pretty good idea of what they'll get in return.
The flipside is that referendums are also a really easy way to pass irresponsible tax cuts. A look at some of the western states, including California and Oregon, demonstrates the effect a fringe group of anti-tax advocates can have on public services, especially the school system. When only 5 percent of the voters are needed to submit a ballot initiative, it's not hard to get a tax cut on the ballot that seeks to starve public schools. In Oregon, where my aunt is a public school teacher, schools were forced to shut down weeks early because of revenue cuts.