There are a plethora of eerie things amiss in the far reaches of North Carolina. We are quickly approaching a rather unique electoral cycle across the state, where there is a spate of bond referendums. But more haunting is the specter of new land transfer or sales taxes slouching towards counties to be born.
It's sinister the creepiness with which some counties are approaching such options. In Union County, for instance, students have been given "educational materials" about the tax. Pardon me, but we can barely educated our kids to read and write but find it acceptable to use them as mules to bring home new tax increase information?
In Brunswick County, staff has prepared very impressive PowerPoint and brochure overviews of the land transfer tax. It isn't exactly promotion, but it isn't hard to see which way the county leans.
In Macon County, the school system essentially admitted in the local paper that they had paid for signs promoting a bond referendum "for the kids". And in adjacent Swain County, billboards have allegedly been paid for with school funds.
The entire issue here is that YOUR money is being used to promote new tax increases. It's technically illegal, but the NC Association of Commissioners has spent a great deal of effort educating local staff in how to "educate" without promoting a given referendum.
The Macon County School Board was caught red-handed. Now they are attempting to rectify the process by getting donations to cover the cost. I wish I could use the same "I'm sorry" attitude when a trooper catches me speeding. They broke the law and have not been held accountable. Even Harnett County (which has both the sales tax and land transfer tax on the ballot) appears to have been using public education to disseminate information about the referendums. Activists caught them, and a clarification letter was issued after the Dunn Daily Record brought the situation to light.
In almost every instance, it is the grass roots folks that are discovering the abuse. Both FreedomWorks (in the west) and American's For Prosperity (in central NC) were the organizations exposing much of this activity.
There is a much larger issue bubbling over, here – taxpayer funded lobbying. The simply explanation is this. You pay taxes. Those taxes go to city, county, state and federal government. In NC, groups like the League of Municipalities (which derives income from cities paying dues) hires lobbyists with your money to push for more city power and more taxing authority.
Issues like forced annexation, which are anathema to the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians (our state is one of one four to allow it), are allowed to proliferate because the taxpayer-funded lobbyists are fighting to keep them in place. And while funding continues to roll in to support government growth, there is no taxpayer-funded group fighting to lower taxes.
From the local to the state level and beyond, it is high time that such issues be addressed. Using tax money to lobby decision makers to spend more tax money or take away freedoms is simply unethical and reprehensible. Taxpayers are progressively being removed from the decision-making process. When schools protest that they don't have enough money, they should be reticent to spend those precious resources "educating" the public. Instead they should focus on educating the public's children.
It's All Hallows' Eve, and there are indeed goblins looking to take their treats from the public trough. The real TRICK will be to stop this inane and disdainful behavior before it becomes a real-live nightmare.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Commentary from Chad Adams
A commentary from Chad Adams from The Center for Local Innovation.