“The power to tax is the power to destroy,” said John Marshall, the fourth chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Today we are taxed on nearly every activity in which we engage. Go to the store? You pay sales tax. Fill up your tank with gas? You pay a gas tax. Work? You pay an income tax. Own property? You pay a property tax.
Some taxation is necessary for government to fulfill its proper role. For example a proper role of government is for our defense, and government must find a way to fund this.
But while funding the proper role of government, the words of Marshall should be kept in mind.
All too often taxes today are used as a method to create equality of results. The goal might be to equalize wealth as government taxes the rich and gives to the poor, or as occurred during the latest legislative session it may attempt to create equality of education or transportation.
S.B. 97 which raised property taxes by $75 million per year was passed because legislators wanted to equalize budgets among school districts. H.B. 362 raised gas taxes by $75 million because of the need to improve roads.
Are both worthy goals? Maybe. But will those bills accomplish these goals? And is additional government force (in the form of taxes) the most appropriate method?
Property taxes are a very dangerous tax; because of these taxes you do not fully own your property. You may have paid for your property with cash or have paid off a loan, but if you do not pay your property taxes the government will come and take your property away from you.
Gasoline taxes are seen as a use tax and generally are the right way to pay for our roads, but a portion of H.B. 362 went to pay for public transit and a small percentage went to the general fund.
Instead of raising property taxes, wouldn’t a better solution be to increase parental choice within our schools? If we believe that parents should direct their children’s education, then a sensible step might be non-refundable tax credits for those who take their children out of public schools, thus reducing the penalties for home-schooling and private schooling. Such a step would naturally increase accountability to parents in school districts which have become top-heavy with administration. This option should be looked at before asking a senior citizen on a fixed income to pay more into the system.
The same concept applies to increasing the gas tax. Before more money is poured into public transit, shouldn’t a plan be in place to make public transport self-sustaining? We might even experiment with toll roads and other methods of directly billing the user.
Every dollar we tax citizens is one more dollar they do not have to pay for the basic necessities of life. One more dollar that they cannot pay for food for a child or essential medicine. Every property tax increase, puts a citizen on the brink of losing his home.
Increasing taxes to compensate for inflation may hold the state harmless, but it hurts citizens whose paychecks have not kept pace with inflation.
Taxes can destroy lives.
Let us hope that future legislators will remember Marshall’s warning.