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Legalized plunder

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About 15 years ago, as I became involved in public policy, I read a book which has significantly guided my decisions, both as a voter and public official. You can read this same book, entitled,The Law, by visiting hd31.org/640. 

State Represenstative Jason Murphey

State Represenstative Jason Murphey

Its author, Frederic Bastiat makes a compelling case that taxation which benefits one person at the expense of another, even when approved by a majority of the voters, represents a form of legalized plunder that isn’t any less immoral than actual theft. It’s simply theft which occurs because 51% of the voters choose to use the power of government to take from the 49% who do not believe the money should be taken.

I believe this sets an extremely high standard by which the conscientious voter is obligated to spend time to understand a tax proposal and judge its merits to determine if it is a true necessity. In lieu of convincing evidence of the necessity of the new tax, the voter is morally obligated to vote against using the power of government to take from his neighbor.

Based on this standard, it has been extremely rare for me to find a tax or fee increase proposal which is truly necessary. With a minimal amount of research, I have often determined that the need for a tax increase either does not exist or could be quickly mitigated if government officials applied basic modernization and efficiency reforms. 

Here’s one example.

Readers may recall last week’s article in which I described how Logan county officials are attempting to create a new $1.4 million road tax by packaging it into a single vote with the extension of already existing taxes, even though it would not have cost a single penny for the county to separate the proposal to stand on its own for an up or down vote by the voters.

For some time now, county officials have complained of a lack of funding or deteriorating funding for county roads and heavily lobbied for passage of the new tax.

A close examination reveals that this is not the case as the state has considerably increased its distribution of road funds to Logan County’s highway funds over the last three years. Logan County’s ability to pull down these funds increased as a result of the growth reflected by the 2010 census and in the last year alone, the state gave the county $4 million, which is $498,000 or a 14% increase in just one year’s time.

The state also massively increased funding to the various county improvement projects – collectively known as the CIRB program. It is estimated that this program receives approximately $120 million per year, which is up from $90 million per year just two years ago. The increase has been so substantial that area county officials at a June meeting were strategizing as to how to quickly spend the money before it might be reclaimed by the Legislature because it was accumulating so quickly. 

Then there are the several million dollars that have been set aside from the sale of the Logan County Hospital and which county leaders originally promised would be used for road improvement but part of which have since diverted for other purposes. In one very recent instance, these funds were used by the county to award a $50K sole source contract, a type of abuse that happens all too frequently when government is suddenly engorged with newfound largess and an abuse about which I have frequently written. There is also the area’s rapidly growing property tax collections, a portion of which county officials had initially said would be set aside for roads but a promise not yet kept.

Then there are the many millions of federal surface transportation funds, state community development block grant funds and state rural economic action plan funds which continue to pour into Logan County.

When this many millions of taxpayer resources are already being collected, it is unconscionable to me for the county to come after yet another new tax. It is simply wrong for us to use government to take from our neighbors when even a cursory review of the facts shows there is simply no legitimate need for the new taxation.

The citizens of Guthrie deserve better than to have the highest sales tax rate of any metro area city of significant size. But that is exactly what will happen if the county has its way and if an accompanying city-level tax proposal is approved this Tuesday. 

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  1. August 25, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    You must be kidding. Come visit Anderson Road between Waterloo and Simmons — I challenge you to drive the posted speed limit of 45 mph. Then get back to me on your viewpoint that there is plenty of money for road repair.

  2. August 25, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Our commissioner is busy grinding up the pavement over here and putting it in front of his house. He has a brand new road while we tear up one ton trucks just trying to get home. Westminster was supposed to be an improvement, but it’s as bad as Charter Oak now. The money’s there. It’s being mismanaged and rat holed away on pet projects while the projects it’s supposed to fix continue to be neglected.

    Our commissioner said, and I quote word for word, “If those people in those new houses want better roads, let them build them themselves.” He won’t even put down gravel. The roads had gravel when we moved here ten years ago when the budget was smaller than it is now. Instead, we have mud up to our doors and have to literally throw rocks at the courthouse to get anything done.

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