The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
Welcome to 2003! It’s time to think about taxes again. We’ve just paid our real and personal property taxes and we’ve received the forms to tell the assessor what we’ll be taxed on at the end of this year. We’ll soon be receiving our W-2 forms that tell us how much of our money the state and federal governments took out of our pay. Then, we’ll have to go through the agony of getting our income taxes done before April 15th.
Here in Johnson County, in addition to the state, county, city and school district property taxes, we have we have at least 7 additional taxing districts covering all or part of the county. These include the Trails Library, 2 fire districts, the ambulance district, the hospital, county health, and the board of services. In addition, there are special districts such as watershed, tourism taxes, etc. Each of these districts is run by a board, some appointed, some elected. Generally, those appointed to boards have a special (or even vested) interest in the area; elections are often decided by a small minority of voting citizens. The best that can be said about property taxes is that they must be voted on and we have to pay them in a lump sum so we feel their impact.
When we go to a store or a restaurant in town, we pay over 7% state, city and county sales tax (4% on groceries). This is a disguised tax, since we seldom pay a great deal of attention to how much we pay. As a rough estimate, for every $2000 we spend on groceries, we pay about $80 in sales tax; for every $2000 on other items, we pay about $140. This doesn’t include special taxes such as the gasoline tax, tobacco and liquor taxes, utility taxes and special fees, etc.
The income tax is the most insidious. We get used to receiving only a part of our earnings each payday, so we discount the real amount of tax taken out. Those of us who have more money withheld than we owe may be happy when we get a refund check from the government, even though that’s our money that we’ve provided the government on an interest-free loan.
Remember, the state is not broke because it reduced taxes; it was required to return money because of the Hancock Amendment, anyway. It is broke because it went on a spending spree, aided by judges who allowed a loose interpretation of the Hancock Amendment. If we can get along without the services and functions the state is cutting now, we should be able to get along without them when the economy inevitably recovers. Government isn’t qualified to plan our spending and investment and there is no reason for government at any level to take any additional share of our money.
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