I’ve already voted in favor of enacting Proposition 1, the local option transportation sales tax. For the reasons cited below, I urge other Grand County voters to do the same.
The major argument against imposing this quarter-cent sales tax is that since it would be applied uniformly regardless of income and ability to pay, it’s a regressive tax. There is no doubt that when applied to necessities like food, clothing and housing, lower-income consumers are more affected by tax increases which they can least afford to pay and also take a bigger chunk out of what little income they have. Thankfully, this time around much of the burden will be lessened by not applying the tax increase to food sales.
On the other hand, an additional 0.25 percent sales tax collected at Grand County businesses would be applied to everyone who shops in Grand County, including non-residents, thus placing only a portion of the financial burden onto Grand County residents. By contrast, increasing city or county property taxes to raise the same amount of revenue means the full financial impact would fall entirely on property owners in those jurisdictions, resulting in larger tax increases than if the burden were shared with non-residents.
When assessing the economic impact associated with raising revenue from a sales tax increase, it’s important to note that the majority of our sales tax revenue is being paid not by county households and businesses, but by tourists to the tune of at least 70 percent. This is because tourism accounts for almost all hotel/ motel collections, a major portion of eating and drinking tax collections, and a significant share that comes from personal property rentals, retail sales and amusement services. If enacted, the increased revenue from tourism taxable sales will lessen the size of future property tax increases.
To those arguing that tax increases to fund government services is never necessary, I say baloney. Those of us serving on homeowner association boards know full well that association dues must go up to properly maintain our buildings, streets, grounds and amenities – and that paying a little more now beats paying through the nose later via special assessments. In much the same way, investing in transportation improvements today will save taxpayer dollars tomorrow.
To those unhappy, like me, about the Grand County Transportation Special Service District spending some of its money to improve Class B roads for the benefit of a private fossil fuel extraction company, I say don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Ultimately, oversight of the special service district rests with the county council and with the voters of Grand County. By whom we elect to the council, we have the power to determine our transportation improvement priorities. But it is an issue separate from the essential need we have right now to raise more revenue.
To my friends active in the conservation movement, I say that if for the sake of our planet, we want to wean ourselves from the lure of “boom or bust” mineral lease money to fund continuing programs, this is a shining example of a more stable way to generate revenue. You can’t say you’re opposed to increased fossil fuel extraction in Grand County and then not support as a funding mechanism this relatively benign way of getting more money.
The road and bike trail maintenance challenges facing us are real. Enacting this tax is the most painless way to raise more of the revenue needed to get started on them.