Why I’m Voting Against Penny Tax

We are being asked again in November to authorize a penny increase in our sales tax to fund a plethora of projects and a bus system that does not service Blythewood residents or businesses.

There are numerous reasons why I oppose this tax. For starters, it is not a 1 percent increase in our sales tax as claimed by the county council and the advocates for this tax. Going from 7 percent to 8 percent is mathematically a 14 percent plus increase.

Also, proponents and The State newspaper claim this is a permanent solution to the bus funding problem. Is it? Every presentation I attended for this tax increase and articles I read advocating passage say this tax will only be imposed for 22 years or until approximately $1.1 billion has been collected, whichever occurs first.

I have stated this proposal is a ‘band-aid’ because it does nothing to eliminate the flaws in the system or the process that has created the current needs. County leadership has done nothing to eliminate these flaws in the two years since the voters originally rejected this same plan and apparently has no intention to do so in the future.

Just last week at a forum for this increase, County Councilwoman Val Hutchinson stated that if this current request is rejected the council probably will be back in two years with a shorter time frame proposal and a lower tax rate. Another rejection of a tax increase indicates we want a different solution to resolve the lack of funds, not a repackaging of a rejected idea.

Should the general populace be asked to pay for the paving of dirt roads that either a developer cut or families cut to get to their homes? Why weren’t paved roads required? The county has no ordinance against dirt roads and the Planning Commission wasn’t bold enough nor had the vision to require paving the roads. Now, we, the tax payers, are asked to fund the paving.

Does the county require new developments to have sidewalks and bike lanes? The Council’s attitude is tax all taxpayers later to pay for them when it’s more costly and the developers and builders have their profit in the bank.

Possible other more creative ways to raise the necessary funds are: an increase in the sales tax on cars that is currently capped at $300 for all sales whether it’s a luxury car or a used “beater,” or an adjustment in our lowest-in-the-nation gas tax that hasn’t been addressed since 1986.

Two items that should be adopted state wide by our legislature are:

1) a tax on parking meter or parking deck usage or all parking tickets issued in the county, targeting those that benefit from transportation and not the general populace, and

2) all revenue generated by the reserved football tailgate locations. Does the University or its foundations pay taxes on that revenue? While they are non-profits, are they in the business of selling parking places?

Finally, the tax initially was put forward as needed to fund (despite its name) Columbia’s bus system. However, only about 29 percent of the proposed revenue is slated to go to the transit system. More than twice the bus amount is targeted for road improvements and approximately $32.1 million is to be set aside for Administrative Expenditures with about $81 million for Bike/Pedestrian/Greenway expenditures. We are being asked to approve this tax without being told how, annually, the funds will be distributed or without knowing the priority for the road projects, including start and completion dates. No details for bus routes, schedules and park-and-ride sites that will be implemented should the tax pass be disclosed.  Yet we are encouraged to vote “Yes.”

This increase is proposed at the same time the county’s recreation committee wants to increase our property taxes to fund shortfalls that they were warned about but ignored. As a voter I expect better and will vote “No” to this request and seriously wonder if the incumbents need a third chance to solve these issues.

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