Boots & Sabers

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0611, 26 Jul 22

Washington County Board should reject tax increase referendum

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

County supervisors should also remember that they do not operate in a vacuum. The citizens who pay those taxes are facing a hard time financially. President Biden’s inflation economy is making prices rise faster than they have in 40 years. Unfortunately, most people’s incomes are not keeping up, so real income is dropping like a rock. Fuel prices are robbing people of mobility and everything is just getting more expensive. Families are cutting back on unnecessary expenses.


Meanwhile, times are good in government. After several years of money raining out of Washington from the Trump and Biden administrations to attempt to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic, local governments have been awash in spending cash. Now they are reaping the benefits of inflation because taxes are based on percentages. As the median home price in southeast Wisconsin has risen 48% since January of 2020, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association, property taxes have risen accordingly.


So, too, has the sales tax. Washington County passed a county sales tax years ago that was sold as a temporary emergency need. They have since made the tax permanent and continue to spend the proceeds. As the prices of goods and services have risen with inflation, so has the money spent on sales taxes. Washington County will likely see a record year in sales tax collections in 2022. Where will that money go? Could it be used to fund a spending increase in the Sheriff’s Department instead of asking the taxpayers to send even more money to the county?


Nobody questions that fighting crime is important and that Washington County deserves a properly funded Sheriff’s Department to meet the needs of the day. But using the current heightened concern about crime to call for a tax increase during a time when inflation is rampant and the economy is slipping into recession borders on the kind of cynicism we expect in Milwaukee – not Washington County.


The Washington County Board should decline to ask the taxpayers for more money and fund the increase in spending for the Sheriff’s Department if it is truly needed. The county has enough of our tax dollars to deliver on their obligations.


0611, 26 July 2022


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