Jason Murphey: Trying to stop logrolled tax increases
In January, Logan County residents experienced a tax increase. The tax increase happened after Logan County officials forced local voters to cast a single vote on the extension of two already existing taxes. This simultaneously created a brand new tax, the proceeds of which go directly to the discretionary budgets of those same county officials. The county should have allowed the voters to cast separate votes on the three taxes, instead of logrolling them into a single vote.
As election returns came in, it became clear that had the new tax stood on its own, it likely would have been defeated. In past elections, the tax extension had been approved with about 75% of the vote. This time, with the new tax factored in, the measure only passed with 58% of the vote. It was outright defeated in several Guthrie and south Logan County precincts.
I believe this fact makes it clear that by logrolling the vote and taking from the voters, county officials participated in an immoral action. Had the county officials been confident in the merits of their proposed new tax, they should have placed the new tax as a single, stand-alone issue. By logrolling the issues, they deprived the voters of the right to choose based on the merits of the proposal.
When I first heard of the county’s plan for a logrolled vote, I thought, “This can’t be legal!”
In the past, county officials had broken up tax questions into separate votes. In the 2004 election, voters were allowed to cast separate votes on taxes for the county hospital and county jail. I mistakenly assumed that the practice of separating tax questions was mandated by law.
It is my great fear that the county’s new policy of logrolling tax increases may serve as a roadmap for other local elected officials to follow. The tax increase proposals of the future may very well couple unpopular tax questions with those which are more popular and assured to pass the vote. This dangerous practice could quickly lead to mega local-level tax increases and an unsustainable level of taxation.
It must be stopped!
To that end, on this last Wednesday, I filed House Bill 1400. It’s a simple bill. It states that these tax questions must embody a single subject. I certainly hope the proposal will not draw the opposition of the groups that represent local government. After all, if local government truly believes their tax increase proposals have merit, they should not be afraid to let them stand on their own.
I also believe local county officials have a moral obligation to put their new tax proposal in front of the voters again — where it can be adjudicated on its own merits.
Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.