Dependable Erection

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sales tax increase is the wrong choice for Durham

Kevin's got a pretty good analysis up over at BCR this morning on the Durham County tax debate. While a couple of the specifics are still unclear in my mind (specifically, i thought the real estate transfer tax was a completely new item, rather than an increase in an existing tax. i probably got that impression from the lobbying campaign against the tax.), the basic choice is pretty straightforward.

Kevin pulls his punches, though, when he concludes:
At the end of the day, new revenue streams are needed to get past these thorny problems. And I'll certainly understand a realpolitik decision by Ruffin and the gang to make that happen. Too bad the best options may still be off the table.

(emphasis added)

Let's be clear. An additional increase in the sales tax for Durham County is probably the most regressive tax choice we can make. It's still unconscionable that the County collects 2% of the purchase price from its poorest residents every time they buy a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, or a pound of hamburger. Even though food is, apparently, exempt from the proposed .25% increase in the county sales tax, other daily necessities like clothes and aliminum foil are not. We should be talking about getting rid of the sales tax on food, and creating an exemption for children's clothing, not increasing the sales tax.

Last weekend's so-called tax holiday, which was originally designed to help folks living on the margin buy back to school clothes and supplies, has really turned into a giant computer and electronics sale for the better off, further impacting tax receipts while benefitting those who need it least.

The upcoming property revaluations (which as i understand them are supposed to be more or less revenue neutral at first) will, over the next few years increase receipts for both the city and the county. But nowhere near enough to both catch up on the decades of deferred maintenance to our infrastructure and create new infrastructure for the anticipated growth in Durham. For that we're going to need some new revenue.

The sales tax is the wrong place to be looking for that. Those of us who realize that need to saying so. Kevin, i think gets that. I just wish he'd be more forceful in saying so. Realpolitik aside.



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