Taxes, Veterans, Roads, and Diversions
By JACK HAMILTON
Bremerton Patriot Columnist
December 17, 2009 · Updated 2:51 PM
In November 1789, some 220 years ago, when Benjamin Franklin wrote, “But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” it is probable that he had no concept of how far out of control taxes could get. Franklin was ever cautious of the power of a central government and he would probably wonder what nation he was in if he showed up on the scene today.
Our state and local governments are experiencing difficulties because tax revenues are not providing the funding necessary for the government our representatives think we need. Rational solutions would be to eliminate non-essential expenditures or, in the government mind set, increase taxes. The governor has determined that, to balance the budget as required by law, she will eliminate funding for a number of programs including basic health care and early education. If eliminating funding is so easy, why were the programs funded in the first place? Perhaps a better question would be “With 196 separate agencies and commissions in state government, many of which are duplicative efforts or of doubtful need, could the cuts not come from somewhere else?” Could it be that by announcing cuts in basic health care, the governor is trying to scare Washingtonians into supporting the proposed federal “health care” provisions as the last best hope to maintain basic programs in the state?
Of very immediate concern to me, on the local level, is the somewhat cavalier attitude of Kitsap County commissioners in suggesting that “excess” tax dollars dedicated to support of veterans in the county and the road fund be “diverted” to the general fund. First and foremost, if we are collecting more taxes than we actually need for a specific use, those tax dollars should be returned to the people and not consumed elsewhere. With respect to “veterans’ fund,” may I suggest that until the very last veteran in the county is registered with the Veterans’ Administration, there is still work to be done. Until every veteran’s funeral is attended by an honor guard and every surviving spouse receives every benefit due them, there is no extra money. Until every homeless veteran has a place to stay, food to eat, and clothes to wear, there is no excess that can be “diverted.” The benefits and support that we promised to provide to our veterans should rank with the highest priorities. For any elected official to even consider using dedicated veterans’ support funds for some other use is beneath contempt.
The Road Fund “diversion” should not surprise anyone. I did not realize that all of the projects on the approved Transportation Improvement Plan were complete and that there was no longer a need for road fund dollars. That probably also comes as a surprise to people in Silverdale, North Kitsap, and Port Orchard who have been waiting on promised road projects for years. Kitsap County seems to pride itself on not having built a new road in more than 20 years. I guess some might look to the new Waaga Way extension as a “new road” but that is a bit far fetched considering other more immediate road needs. The real crux of the matter is that the dollars in question were collected under the road tax portion of your property taxes. Shifting those funds to the general fund is totally inappropriate. If the county is not going to build roads, stop collecting the tax.
Of course there is the question of how to replace “diverted” funds and cancel the outstanding IOUs. To acquire the necessary funds the general fund must run at a budget excess with more revenues than expenses (good luck on that happening). The county will have to purposely collect tax revenues in excess of need to fund the repayment. This is the kind of circular thinking and slight-of-hand accounting that got us into our overpriced government in the first place. Those of us paying the bills have to live within our means. It is time for government to do the same.Contact Bremerton Patriot Columnist Jack Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.