Friday, September 28, 2007

More Property Tax Increases

Legislators may soon require counties to increase their property taxes to increase funding for county health departments. This because federal dollars are getting reduced, or are tied to specific programs according to Dr. Gary House, of the Weber-Morgan County Health Department.

"At the federal level, we're seeing a shift in their funding priorities. We're getting money for things like bioterrorism."

I've heard this argument made before by the Davis County Health Department. They suggest the federal dollars are the reason we should increase funding. I get reimbursed for certain expenses by my employer, so should I be asking for a raise because of how I am paid?

I think that we should have funding for bioterrorism, and for things like pandemics. Is House suggesting otherwise? In my mind the county is perfectly situation to arrange the stockpile of vaccines in a way that the individual cannot. If bird-flu strikes my town, I can't be expected to have a personal supply of vaccine.

The Salt Lake Tribune implied in its reporting that it is the state lawmakers job to "control health spending." This could not be more wrong. How many of our recent property tax increases have come because of the legislature? How many because of the county commission, or school board? Part of the blame for this misconception lies with those who are asking for the mandatory tax increase, however.

Dr. David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Utah Public Health Department asked for a property tax increase, but if not given that, he suggested a tax on cigarettes which could be earmarked for anti-cigarette campaigns and treatment. Is anyone else catching the irony implicit in this suggestion? In fact, the better job the health department did, the worse their funding would get. It would be a completely self-destructive tax if the campaign to eliminate smoking were to succeed.

Clearly, the folks asking for this money haven't thought it through enough.

And, Davis county has already increased funding for the health department, and we can see the results of that increase this year. If the legislature steps in, we'd see another increase next year. This despite the fact that we have a $242 million surplus. Less money than last year, but more than enough to match the $30 million dollars in infrastructure spending that health departments need this year.

"We will have the money to fund the essentials," according to Representative Ron Bigelow.

The Deseret News is reporting that there are $200 million in unspent funds this year from state departments and colleges. From the article.

"It is alarming, some of these large carry-overs, especially two years in a row," said House Majority Leader Dave Clark, R-Santa Clara. "Why do we do this?"

Hat tip: Citizens For Tax