Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pataskala income tax, revision 0.6

News flash: It is autumn, the leaves are changing color and falling -- and Pataskala wants to impose an income tax, again. The Pataskala (actually Newark) newspaper is all for it, naturally, because every other city and school district has an income tax, and it's time for Pataskala to get with the program (or join in the suffering). They want 0.5% this time around, with no credit for tax paid to other cities such as Columbus.

I have an opinion on this, but first, let's take a look at the scoreboard1 for the past few attempts:

November 2001 (Pataskala - 1.00% income tax): Against: 71.02% For: 28.98%
November 2002 (Pataskala - 0.75% income tax): Against: 68.61% For: 38.39%
March 2004 (Licking Heights School District - 0.75% income tax): Against: 83.83% For: 16.17%
November 2004 (Pataskala - 1.25% income tax, ??? credit): Against: 66.46% For: 33.54%
May 2006 (Pataskala - 1.50% income tax, ??? credit): Against: 58.95% For: 41.05%
November 2006 (1.50% tax, 100% credit): Against: 62.43% For: 37.57%

I see a pattern here, and I don't think I'm alone. Call me naive, or politically unaware, but ... I don't think the voters of Pataskala want an income tax.

The usual rationale given for an income tax is that it will reduce the property tax burden. I have two problems with that line of reasoning:

  1. Taxing something means that less of it is desired. So, an income tax means that fewer income earners are desired in Pataskala. Guess that means the City Council wants fewer two-income couples, successful single people, and other earners in the town, and more retirees and low-income residents.
  2. We, the voters, never hear about specifically how much the property tax levy will be reduced, only vague promises that it will be. I simply don't accept promises from elected officials on the subject of money, because there simply is no guarantee that the promises will be fulfilled (or that the elected officials making the promises will be there when the time comes to reduce the property tax).

Also, last year, Pataskala 1st brought up the ugly spectre of the idea that cities can raise the income tax arbitrarily once it's imposed. If that's true, then I have three objections.

Here's a thought that would mollify me, at least. Couple the next income tax ballot initiative (and you just know that another one's coming) with language to the effect that The City of Pataskala, upon adoption of (the income tax issue), forever and irrevocably renounces the ability to levy, collect, or impose residential property taxes. That'll tell me y'all are serious, guys. Right now, all I see is a transparent attempt to tax me two different ways, so you can raise one tax while indignantly pointing to the other one and saying "but, it's not going up!".

1 (all figures from the Licking County Board of Elections Web site) The Licking Heights election in 2004 doesn't really fit, as LH doesn't encompass all of Pataskala, but I'm just so damned proud of my fellow voters for flushing that turd, by an astounding 83-17 margin, that I just had to include it.