If someone tried to reach into your wallet once, you might whack them with your hand.
If they tried it again, this being Monroe County, Ga., you might introduce them to Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.
If they tried it a third time, well, let’s just say that wouldn’t be wise on their part.
Yet that’s what Monroe County is trying to do to its voters in the election that’s already underway and will culminate Nov. 5. Your neighbors are already casting ballots on a referendum of whether government should take a bigger portion of your paycheck. Yet this may be the first you’ve heard about it. More on that later.
Suffice it to say that for the third time since 2012, the county is seeking your permission to get into your wallets by raising the sales tax in Monroe County from 7 to 8 percent. Why? To pave more roads. They’re calling it a T-SPLOST, or Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
State lawmakers tried this first in 2012, selling it as a regional approach to transportation whereby counties would get together and share tax revenues for area projects. Voters across the state soundly defeated it. Georgians know that government already confiscates way too much money from families.
In 2016 Monroe County tried again, this time with promises that more money would stay at the local level. Again, Monroe County voters wisely defeated the tax increase by a significant margin.
Yet here we are again. Our elected leaders will not take no for an answer. And they’ve quietly scheduled this vote on an off-election year hoping to sneak it by the voters. I hope they fail.
It was just one year ago that Monroe County taxpayers agreed to renew the county’s 1-percent sales tax that will siphon $19 million out of our wallets. About $4 million of that will go to pave local roads. But government is never satisfied. They always want more.
Elected officials like to call this the penny tax to minimize its impact on local families. But think about this: the median household income in Monroe County is $50,666. It is true some things are exempt from sales taxes: Rent or mortgage payments and most groceries. But that’s it. Let’s conservatively assume that only half that income, $25,000, is spent buying taxable things each year. Under that example, this tax increase would cost the average family $250 per year. And they want to impose it for five years. So that’s $1,250 taken away from your family. That leaves families without funds to pay for things like field trips, or new clothes, or medical care for their children.
And then consider that once these sales taxes are imposed, they are rarely, if ever, repealed. The Georgia legislature first allowed school systems and county governments to impose 1 percent sales taxes in 1985, and Monroe County families have coughed up millions ever since.
In the past, elected officials have sold this transportation tax increase as a way to keep paving roads with local money, with the promise of matching dollars from the state. That was the carrot. But now county manager Jim Hedges is suggesting that if voters do not pony up, an increase in property taxes may be required to pay for road improvements. They try this tactic a lot. It’s called the stick. I say call their bluff.
I don’t deny Monroe County roads could use improvement. But more important are Monroe County families and their budgets. Every dollar siphoned out of local families for government diminishes our ability to meet their own needs. Monroe County is a conservative county. We understand that the family and the individual come first. Government comes second. When government is already hitting families with property taxes, sales taxes, death taxes, income taxes and every other kind of tax, then Nov. 5 is a good time for Monroe County taxpayers to tell their elected officials for a third time: “No mas!”
And maybe this time, they’ll listen.