Budget Woes

The TC Democrats have been quite concerned, not just about the county budget, but also the many people who rely on that budget for their livelihoods and who now find themselves unemployed and too experienced to get just any job in this economy. These are our family, friends, and neighbors and the community is a better place to live having them here than seeing them go. To understand the severity and complexity of the issues currently being faced by our county, we recently had Mike Jensen, the county auditor, come to our central committee meeting and answer a roomful of questions on this topic. We have spent some time looking at the budget ourselves, trying to see if there is anything at this point that we would do differently. The fact is this is a problem that has been building for several years, and there is little at this juncture that we can propose to solve these issues.

Tooele Democrats appreciate that responsible fiscal policy sometimes means that we must implement programs at odds with our own ideals. While many of us would propose different budget cuts to meet the same objectives, a careful examination of the situation reveals that the correct course of action should have begun years ago when the real estate bubble was still building: taxes should have been raised to create a fund that would have buffered some of the impact of the predictable recession that has plagued us for several years. With the drop in property values, responsible fiscal policy should have raised the tax rate to provide equal funding for services–then drop the tax rate as property values return to normal levels. While “raising taxes” is not a popular catchphrase with conservative Utahns, such a policy is in line with the ideals of fiscal conservatism and the realities of fiscal responsibility. We believe that what we are seeing today is the result of an extreme departure amongst the Republican party from its conservative ideals in favor of a nearly lawless state where the government is powerless to protect its people even from such a weak foe as hunger and poverty. While we have enjoyed low tax rates, our neighbors have suffered because we were unwilling to share our wealth and ease their burden in a difficult time.

At this point, tt seems the only answer is to raise revenue sharply, and that means raising property taxes, given that two of our biggest taxpayers (The chemical depot and Energy Solutions) are not producing the revenue nor the jobs (and subsequent economic boost) that they have in the past and likely will not again. Sadly, property taxes are assessed in November, and no new property tax revenue will be coming in before then. All the commission is doing for now is trying to tide over until next fiscal year. We expect that a tax increase is sure to happen and while we don’t look forward to it, we appreciate the services that the county provides for us and our role as citizens in providing the county with the means to continue providing those services.

We encourage all those with ideas for resolving our county’s financial difficulties, regardless of political affiliation, to step forward and air your ideas. We further encourage all citizens to become familiar with the county budget, available on the county’s website, so that everyone can feel informed and new approaches may be brought forward from outside the usual circle of ideas. Finally, we encourage all those who might want to have a more direct say in county expenditures to put your hat in the political ring and run for office. Next year, we will elect two new commissioners. It’s a solid job with social esteem and, as yet, an excellent salary and benefits package.