"How do you know when a politician is lying?" Answer: "His/her lips are moving."
We laugh. But unfortunately, there is a lot of truth in that joke.
Another unfortunate truth is that local government spending is beginning a sharp upward spiral. And when spending goes up, taxes go up.
TAXES: On June 28, the Hamblen County Commission passed a budget that has around $1 million dollars in new spending out of the county general government fund. That new spending comes with a price tag ---a 10-cent tax increase.
After voting for the tax increase and new spending, Chairman Stancil Ford started the spin machine with political double-speak in which he proclaimed how proud he was that the budget had been CUT by $1 million dollars.
How do you increase spending by $1 million dollars and call it a "cut"? Answer: The first wish-list budget presented this year included over $2 million dollars in new spending. So when the commission only added $1 million dollars in new spending, Ford proudly termed this $1 million in new spending a "cut."
To quote another famous spinmeister: it all depends on what the meaning of "cut" is. To the taxpayer, it's pretty simple. If you are getting $10/hour and ask your boss for a $2/hour raise for the next year but only get a $1/hour raise, did you get a "cut" in pay? No. That's not a cut. That's just less of an increase than you asked for.
When politicians look at a similar situation on the government level, they think that if they spent $10 million last year and if someone proposes to spend $2 million additional dollars in next year's budget but instead they only add $1 million dollars of additional spending, then they have "cut" the budget. That's not a cut. That's just less of an increase than they asked for.
Bottom line: Government spending in the county's general fund is increasing by $1 MILLION DOLLARS from last year's level, and everyone's tax rate is going up by 10 cents from last year's level to pay for the added spending.
I was allowed to speak just before the June 28th tax-and-spend vote was approved. No other citizens spoke at that time although I have seen several letters to the editor opposing tax increases.
On June 28th, I knew the vote was set. My remarks were a reminder that looking for ways to cut or at least hold-the-line on new spending is long overdue. They also were a reminder that local officials, unfortunately, have a poor record for truthfulness about taxes and a poor record for accountability for tax dollars.
You are getting ready to raise taxes AGAIN.
The writing is on the wall. It's a done deal.
I am against the continual increase in taxes. Just like the average citizen, government has to learn to curb the constant desire to spend more and more.
In 1999, you passed a wheel tax. It was supposed to be a temporary tax to take care of a temporary general fund problem and then it was supposed to "sunset" and go away.
Well, the sun never did set on the wheel tax. As soon as the temporary general fund problem was taken care of, you decided that you still wanted to spend more tax dollars.
So in 2002 many of you currently serving on this commission decided to conduct a "pick-your-poison" referendum.
Taxpayers were given the choice of a wheel tax or a property tax increase. What a nifty choice. Too bad there wasn't a third choice---none of the above.
The taxpayers dutifully made their "choice." Continue the $27 wheel tax and they thought that was it.
Little did the taxpayers know that just three months after the wheel tax passed in 2002, many of you commissioners sitting here today or your predecessors would tack on a 15-cent property tax increase, too!
So much for straight talk. No wonder the public has such distrust for elected officials.
That's when people began to see that the government never gets enough.
Then a short time later, it was disaster time for the garbage fund. A 21-cent property tax increase.
Then there was a litigation tax increase.
Then pennies were shifted from the debt fund and put in the general fund. And more money was shifted around that many of you never even knew about until after it was already done.
Now, you're preparing to add another 10-cent increase to the general fund tax rate.
You may never see them and you may never talk to them, but there are people living on fixed incomes today. I have heard at least two or three of you mention these people in private conversations.
These people are living on $500 to $600/month. They are saddled with gas costing nearly $3/gallon. Milk that is nearly $5/gallon. Frequently, they have no health insurance and are faced with the choice of buying food or needed medicine.
And there is a middle class that is squeezed from all sides as well.
Taxes just go up and up and up!
The really sad thing is that there is so little accountability up here for the precious tax dollars that you have already taken and that you are preparing to take more of today.
Everybody can think of new ways to spend money, but suggestions for spending cuts are non-existent or few and far between.
Ignoring those who suggest ways to cut spending is the norm.
No-bid contracts are still the norm.
No questions are now the norm.
And, as a result, there will be a tax increase this year, next year, and probably for many years to come.
Government belt-tightening? Maybe when pigs fly.
Thank you for allowing me to speak today.