Thursday, May 18, 2006

What a Difference Three Months Makes

Back on February 17, the Journal-Sentinel posted an article titled "Parks, Art Sales Tax Gains Support." It discussed how the various factions on the Milwaukee County Board were getting behind an advisory sales tax referendum that would go on the ballot this fall.

Fast-forward exactly three months to yesterday, May 17. On that day, the JS posted an article titled "Chances Wane for Sales Tax Vote." This article discusses how an inability to reach a consensus on the Milwaukee County Board will very likely kill the proposed advisory sales tax referendum.

What happened?

According to the article posted yesterday, "Conflicts and questions intensified about which programs should benefit from any new tax, the size of the tax, promises of property-tax relief, and the public's perceived anti-tax mood."

So here the County is facing a looming fiscal crisis, and the Board is quibbling over where the extra money should go, how much extra money to take, and whether the referendum would upset anti-tax factions.

This is ridiculous. We're talking about an advisory referedum here. Why does the money even need to be dedicated on the ballot question? Simply getting a question out there to voters is a step in the right direction. If they shoot it down, so be it. Just asking them will serve as an opportunity to further educate the public about the impending budget crisis.

Plus, if rejected, it could serve as a reference point for county officials when services start to wane without the extra revenue. Perhaps then the public will start to see more clearly the connection between taxes and services. If it's a "perceived anti-tax mood" that's the concern, one way to counteract it is by urging the development of a "perceived anti-crappy services mood."

Memo to County Board: Just get something passed, for goodness sake.

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