Do we need another tax? Can we afford it?

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Do we need another tax? Can we afford it?

In the 1970s’ hit by the Temptations “Ball of Confusion,” there’s a refrain that says “politicians say more taxes will solve everything…” Let’s see how many politicians will exploit the recent shootings in the High Desert and call for more taxes. Oh, that’s right, the plea has already begun!

The Victorville City Council recently voted to place a measure on the ballot in November (http://www.vvdailypress.com/news/20170802/victorville-voters-will-decide-half-percent-sales-tax-for-public-safety) to raise its sales tax from the current 7.75 percent sales tax rate to 8.25 (which, if passed, will likely drive consumers to neighboring cities to shop to avoid paying the tax) for public safety funding.

Supervisor Lovingood just last week called for consideration of a voter-approved sales tax (http://www.vvdailypress.com/news/20170807/in-plea-for-talks-on-county-public-safety-tax-lovingood-warns-of-losing-battle) that would be used to add more sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors and to finish opening a new county jail.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the infamous “gas tax” that takes effect Nov. 1 and will result in a 12-cent increase per gallon in the base gasoline excise tax and a new transportation improvement fee based on vehicle value (if you have a vehicle valued between $5,000-$24,999 the fee would be $50 extra for each vehicle).

So I have several questions:

  1. How many more new taxes or tax increases can people expect to absorb before suffering financial hardship
  2. When will it be determined that enough taxes are enough?
  3. How will raising taxes improve public safety and reduce crime?

The answer to number 1 is probably one more; number 2, there will never be enough; number 3 — it won’t!

Every time there are prominent stories about crime in the High Desert comes the rallying cry WE NEED MORE POLICE. I think not. How many more would be enough, 20, 75, 100? Do we actually believe if we had a police force of 500 officers that crime is actually going to stop? More police officers may make us feel safe if we see more out on patrol, but more police simply means they’ll be able to respond and investigate crimes. Too many laws and propositions have been passed that favor criminals and do not hold them accountable.

In Victorville, where I live, the budget for public safety has increased each year the past few years: 2014 — $32.4 million, 2015 — $33.6 million, 2016 — $35.3 million, 2017 — $37.2 million, and in current year the police budget alone is $24.4 million, one percent higher than last year.

In August 2014 every City/Town Council in the High Desert met jointly to discuss consolidation of police and fire services to rein in costs that escalate each year without a corresponding increase in services. The idea and subsequent discussions were dropped as it was determined consolidation was impractical.

So let’s assume that Victorville voters approve the sales tax increase in November. When would it end, how long will it be before the revenue raised from the tax wouldn’t be enough and calls begin anew for another tax or an increase in the approved tax? Remember Measure I? The half-cent transportation sales tax was approved by voters for 20 years in 1989 and when governments became used to the revenue flow, when it expired in 2009 voters were asked to extend the tax (and we did) another 30 years.

There’s got to be a better way. Our leaders can’t continue to tax residents into poverty. They can’t keep seeking the simply solution of “impose more taxes.” Costs are escalating across the board for food, health care, housing; our elected leaders have to do a better job than simply say “we need to improve public safety” and therefore need to raise taxes.

Elected officials should consider raising taxes or creating a new tax as a LAST resort, not a first resort. And they should clearly demonstrate what steps have been taken to address the issue BEFORE they seek a new tax or increases. The Victorville City Council and Supervisor Lovingood have not demonstrated what prior steps they’ve taken.

Victorville is considering a skate park, they’re considering a Riverwalk … at what costs? Supposedly grant funding was secured for these endeavors. Have grant funds been sought to cover law enforcement costs? What is the result? Maybe the city would be better off to start a Go-Fund Me account!

Michael Stevens is a Victorville resident and former candidate for the Victorville City Council.

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