Pensacola, Florida
Saturday October 25th 2014

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Outtakes 5/26/11

TRICKLE DOWN TAXATION The federal and state governments are cutting their spending, which should make every taxpayer happy. Congress and our state legislature can boast about how they have fought their bureaucracies and reduced the size of government.
What isn’t mentioned in the press releases and their speeches is that many of the cuts are merely shifting the burdens to local governments. The tax burden is trickling down, too.
Gov. Rick Scott and our lawmakers brag about how they reduced the cost of the Florida Retirement System by having state, school and municipal workers pay an additional three percent towards their pension costs. Did the county and city benefit from its workers paying more?
No—the savings was absorbed by the state to balance its budget. Our workers are paying to help the state, not our local governments. We will see no reduction in our ad valorem taxes.
The needs and problems aren’t going away simply because state and federal programs are being cut. They still exist, and the burden for dealing with them is being shifted to the local level. More state roads are being turned over to counties and cities for them to maintain. No additional dollars are being shifted to help local governments take care of those roads.
Environmental regulation is being shifted more to the local level—that is, unless it’s fertilizer. Developers are giddy about having county commissioners deal with environmental and planning issues. After all, developers are the biggest contributors to their campaigns. However, there still will be costs associated with managing growth. The taxpayers will have to shoulder some of that burden.
While the state and federal governments battle over health care, Escambia County sees its uninsured numbers increase. Sacred Heart, the safety net for the poor, had during the 2011 legislative session its Medicaid funding cut $9 million. When this county debated four years ago adding a half-cent sales tax to pay for health care for the uninsured, the voters overwhelmingly defeated the measure.
The prevailing thought at the time was the uninsured were a state or federal problem. Well, the state is making it our problem. We have become a community with excellent health care facilities but limited access. Our health outcomes are similar to those of Third World countries, with high rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
Our public education system also lags behind the rest of the state. We haven’t made a dent in the illiteracy issues. The private sector–ECARE (Every Child A Reader Escambia)–had to retool its goals after showing little measurable progress after five years. Our public schools will find it even more difficult to improve with their budgets being cut over $500 per student.
Our largest employers are state and local governments. Government workers will have their take-home pay cut by 3 percent for their contribution to their retirements. This means less money for locals to spend with local businesses. For a poor community like ours, the impact of those dollars lost ripple through the economy.
So while the state and federal politicians brag about their budget cuts, remember we are still stuck with the problems and the bills.

rick@inweekly.net