The Hamburger Tax – Avoiding the Green Weenie
I think the proponents of Searcy's A&P tax have only one clear cut objective and that is just to have another source of revenue; current and future needs are only minor motivations. It’s well demonstrated that it is the availability of revenue that ignites creativity in the planning and budgeting process rather than community needs.
The budgeting process used by our local governments is to identify all the tax revenues available, and then make sure every penny is spent. The budget allocates the funds to various undertakings usually based on past expenses adjusted for inflation but minus any expectations for improvement.
Some allocations must be made on the basis of the revenue source because of the way the tax was established. For example, the county Jail Tax must be spent on law enforcement – period, regardless of any other financial tensions the county encounters. This would be true, in the city, of an A&P tax is established by a referendum.
I believe that if there is a legitimate need for the tax, suggesting a referendum is irresponsible. With a referendum, elected officials can avoid accountability. The dodge could be further enhanced by having the funds administered by a commission. The City Council should enact the tax or not, take responsibility, and justify their action at election time.
Designated tax schemes are a bad idea if they are permanent. Stuff happens and things change. Binding the revenue sources explicitly to allowed expenditures ties the hands of future elected officials preventing sound decisions in meeting new challenges.
A sunset policy is a good idea. I think future generations should not be burdened with outdated tax schemes imposed by the myopic vision of local politicians or the inept civic awareness of an earlier generation. Any A&P tax enacted should include a sunset clause to force officials to periodically consider the efficacy of their actions.
We elect our officials to govern; they should act and be held accountable.