Hello sleepy Huntsvillian. Today, when you go to the store to buy your goods and services, you will be met with an additional one percent sales tax. Last fall, right before Christmas, when no one was paying attention, the Huntsville City Council unanimously passed the sales tax increase – and today is your lucky day! The new sales tax of 9% was based on the excuse of needed new roads.
It may not seem like much. One dollar on a hundred. But when you think about it, it hasn’t been that long ago when municipal sales taxes in Huntsville were only 6% or less. The increase from then to now amounts to $3 on a hundred. The total that you now pay is $9 on a hundred. It seems important to put these figures in context because the money the City Council is taking out of your paycheck is not just an arbitrary percentage – it’s real money.
Maybe the biggest irony of the equation is that the city council passed the increase right on the heels of the Washington government shutdown, when Congressman Mo Brooks was fighting against the Obama administration and democrats tooth and nail to stop them from raising additional taxes. I’m no great fan of Mo Brooks either, but at least he has some pretense of listening to what the conservative residents of North Alabama have told him.
Don’t get me wrong. It is the responsibility of municipalities to be concerned with new roads, and especially maintenance of existing infrastructure. But it seems to me that over time when there’s an increase in inflation, percentage based sales taxes automatically go up as the price of the product goes up. Municipal taxes are essentially inflation proof. So, how is it that Huntsville’s sales tax has nearly doubled in 50 years?
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle claims Huntsville needs it for the quality of life by keeping the worker commute time to 18 minutes. What he fails to mention is that’s how all metropolitan areas grow. But guess what, I doubt New York, or Los Angeles, or Miami have an 18 minute commute time any longer. And, neither will Huntsville after a few more years. It’s a back handed conundrum that ultimately doesn’t really benefit all the local residents. It certainly isn’t the kind of “behind the scenes” quality of life improvement that the residents of “Tent City” are going to appreciate very much. When you consider that God only gets 10%, and then think about adding an extra $5 charge to $50 worth of groceries, you know that the so-called “quality of life” 18 minute commute isn’t really going to benefit all the residents of Huntsville.
A lot of other Huntsville residents don’t have money to burn on increased commute mileage that increases our carbon footprint to boot. The best way to lessen commute times is to live closer to work. In fact, in the face of global warming, and when we already know fossil fuels are limited, it doesn’t seem very prescient to facilitate growth based on driving longer distances to work. Virtually all the alternatives that have been tested thus far have limitations that will make driving longer distances to work a bad alternative anyway. In the future, more people will choose to live closer to work.
Who does it benefit then? Tommy’s real estate buddies of course. By using tax payer subsidies to develop those areas for new businesses and sub-divisions, Tommy’s highfalutin business partners get a whopping increase in land values and a bunch of new business to line their pockets with profits. Why should tax payers have to subsidize rich landowners?
Mr. Battle recently “bowed out” of the 2016 Republican race for Alabama governor. Well, go figure that one out. A good republican wouldn’t run against the incumbent governor anyway. Bob Bently ain’t so great, but he’s entitled to his second term. No, Tommy’s just testing the waters for a time further down the road – probably 2020. So let me make this recommendation for Mr. Battle, and all the Huntsville City Council members next time their name comes up on any ballet:
© 2014 – Jim Casey
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