And people here in Utah have been asking what they need to know about the proposed Utah constitutional amendments. There is a state voting website, vote.utah.gov , where you can read what the proposed change is along with a "for" essay and an "against" one, but I think some dialogue is missing. This is what I'd like others to know about the proposals this year:
Constitutional Amendment A- Joint Resolution on Severance Tax
There are a few problems I see with this proposal.
1- the budget shortfall it creates until 2044 or whenever the interest generated catches up to the annual amount pulled out of use.
2- the inflexibility of the mandate. Do we need RULES for everything? They tend to discourage the use of reason and common sense in each year's budget. How about understanding and living by principles instead? Yes, there are ways to access the severance tax fund in an emergency, but this seems too restrictive for the time we're in; see #3:
3- this appears to actually TAKE from future generations: it takes away our ability to pay down our current debt. According to the Utah Debt Clock, our state has $19.5 billion in debt. This is where we are truly stealing from future generations. The greater favor we can do for them is to pay off our debt now, then have our state representatives learn to stay within a budget.
If you made $40K each year but spent $46K annually, would you put money aside into a low-yield savings account while you were $39K in debt? Those are the numbers that Utah Debt Clock translates to.
This proposal would most likely be a great thing if we were debt-free. But we're not.
The smart thing would be to pay off debt as fast as you could with everything available, then live within (= BELOW) our means. That's how we prepare for the needs of future generations.
My vote: No on Constitutional Amendment A
Constitutional Amendment B- Joint Resolution on Property Tax Exemption for Military Personnel
No 'against' statement was given at vote.utah.gov. When I called the Lieutenant Governor's office to ask why, they said those 'for' or 'against' statements must be submitted, before a certain deadline, by the senators who voted for or against it. Nobody submitted the 'against', though there were some who did not vote for it. You can go to le.utah.gov to see who voted for or against this resolution.
This is not a matter of if I/we appreciate military sacrifices or not, though it's painted as such. It is a matter of if an additional expense is justified in our state budget. See budget numbers above.
This amendment proposes something that equates to a pay increase. If it is truly justified, let's have a straightforward pay raise, then, rather than adding further complication to our tax system.
Are our military people going to be in favor of this amendment? Most likely. It would be very tempting to me to push for something that exempted me from paying property tax; the only ones who like the tax are the cities and departments being handed the money to spend. In addition, this proposal will decrease revenue, leading to "the government taxing entity" increasing property taxes on the rest of us. I'm tired of being slowly bled to death by 'minor' fees. They add up. Furthermore, I will never truly own my own land, as it can be confiscated if I fail to pay property taxes. It is not fair to say that some of us are subject to that threat and others are not.
Sympathy and gratitude do not justify further mandatory redistribution, especially in a manner that is easier to hide.
Daniel McCay, a state representative from Riverton, voted against this resolution. When I spoke with him, he said he voted 'no' because there are better- more straightforward- ways to deal with this than waive tax requirements. He was also concerned that this opens a new door- if we exempt active military, then what about firemen? Police? Teachers? Other public sector workers?
My vote: No on Constitutional Amendment B
Proposal for Salt Lake County Bond- Open Space, Natural Habitat, Parks, and Community Trails
This is a vote to allow additional debt of $47 million on a 20 year loan, plus interest, plus additional annual expenditures of $581,000, all paid for by tax revenue. General Obligation bonds, like this, are paid for through raising property taxes.
As of June 30, 2012, Salt Lake County itself has nearly $254 million in 'general obligation' bond debt. This one proposal would take us to $300 million in debt. In 2004 we had $106 million in debt. Let's not make it worse. Last year SL County paid out $21 million in interest (see chart pg. 155).
My vote: No on County Bond