The Morristown City Council sent letters last week to "Morristown Property Owner."
The letters ask each recipient to vote YES for a sales tax increase in the June 3 referendum.
The letters have individualized property tax information and state that the City Council has "committed" to roll back last year's historic 40-cent property tax increase by 15-cents if the referendum passes. Click on the image at left to view one of the letters.
The letter campaign is part of a mighty effort to cajole a "yes" vote out of a segment of the voting population with no thought about the effect of another sales tax increase on young families, the elderly, and low-income workers--all of whom will be hit hardest with the higher sales tax rate of 9.75%.
The City Council alone votes on property tax increases. The voters, however, have the say on sales tax increases.
Since the Council has to rely on voters to pass a sales tax increase, the City is resorting to extraordinary means--including a temporary partial tax rollback or what some have termed "temporary tax reduction bribery"--to get voter approval of a permanent sales tax increase.
If the Council can get the voters to agree to a sales tax increase, the Council can do the obligatory and temporary 15-cent reduction and then turn right around and vote in future property tax increases without going to the voters as is necessary with the sales tax.
About the only way to get voters to vote themselves a sales tax increase is to frame it in terms of "pick your poison," so that's exactly what the City is doing.
The City administered a 40-cent property tax poison to city taxpayers in 2007. Now the Mayor and City Council are telling city voters that they can substitute a sales tax poison for part (15- cents) of last year's property tax poison by voting YES on the sales tax increase.
Sales taxes are regressive and impact the working poor, the elderly, and those on fixed incomes the hardest.
Sales tax dollars, as pointed out by City Councilman Mel Tucker, are an unreliable, up-and-down source of revenue for the City. The sales tax dollars of outsiders are particularly unreliable because outsiders do not have to come to Morristown to shop.
This referendum offers a short-term carrot (a temporary 15-cent property tax reduction) in order to get voters to approve a long-term and permanent sales tax increase.
The letters are about spending taxpayer dollars to convince property owners that they can benefit by laying a permanent regressive sales tax increase both on themselves and on the working poor, the elderly, and individuals and families who rent.
Look at the people who will benefit by the sales tax/property tax swap.
Then look at the people who are likely to be hurt by the swap--those who own inexpensive housing, those who rent, those who have small fixed incomes, those already suffering with gas at nearly $4/gallon and milk hovering around $5/gallon-- those who already have great difficulty in purchasing the basics of life.
Where is the letter explaining how wonderful it is for these individuals to pay even more sales tax? The government can not tax itself into prosperity, but it certainly can tax its citizenry into oblivion!