I voted. There was only one issue of interest.

I voted today, and there was only one issue of interest. It was a local issue — whether or not to impose a 1% Sales Tax increase locally to fund “the arts.”

I’m an artist. I’ve got a degree in the fine arts. My wife studied humanities. My living is “the arts.” So of course I voted HELL NO.

Why? Because taxes that are earmarked for specific funds or causes encourage fiscal irresponsibility, and put government on autopilot with regards to spending. This same principle came up a year ago with “Initiative One” in Utah, and I voted against that, too. I’m not opposed to environmentally friendly initiatives like that one claimed to be, but it was fiscally irresponsible, so I voted “no.”

If my local and state representatives want to spend money on arts, or the environment, or anything else, they need to be prioritizing those expenditures against everything else they want to spend money on. Compared with the rest of the nation, Utah has the third-highest state-and-local tax burden, measured as a percentage of average family income: 15.1% (NH is #50 with 10.3%). Adding a sales tax to that burden is preposterous.

Utah is one of the most (if not THE most) “conservative” states in the Union, but apparently it’s social conservatism as opposed to fiscal conservatism.

(For the record, I’m not going to debate social issues in this post, and neither are you.)

I’m a big fan of fiscal conservatism. Government needs to be lean and very responsible, not lazy and bloated. From the looks of things, Utah’s state legislature needs to be shaken down a bit. Hopefully the defeat of Initiative One last year, and the defeat (maybe) of Orem’s RAP tax this year will send a message.


29 thoughts on “I voted. There was only one issue of interest.”

    1. Yay Fiscal Conservatism!

      Sadly, in Neighboring colorado, Fiscal Conservatism isn’t alive and well. They just passed a referendum that says they can cancel out the limited government amendment for 5 years and keep all of the excess for that time. I’m sure after 5 years if the economy collapses again from natural gas tapering off, we’re going to be in deep fecal matter because we’ll have thrown out fiscal conservatism during a growth period. It’s going to be the California budget crisis all over again.

      That was the only reason I voted as well…

  1. Is there something you, as a citizen, can do, to make it clear to the powers that be that your “no” vote is not to the intent of the bill, but to the form of it? Presumably if it had been a bill that was a nonbinding thing that says “we citizens like art” you would have voted yes; how do you get that message to your elected representatives so they know to keep it on their radar while allocating that money?

    I hope this doesn’t count as debating social issues… apologies if it does.

    1. I think this is where the old charge to “write your congressman” comes from. True, the phrase has become cliche, but I think that’s the only way to get the message across.

  2. I support a peice of legislation that hasn’t been drawn up. Every time I mention it to a public official they damn near have a panic attak, though, so I suppose it would be a Very Good Thing.

    One day, in my copius spare time, I’ll even write it up and try to get it passed.

    It’s very simple. Any non-national security related government agency must post their fully auditable books online, so that any taxpayer can look at them. State, local, and federal. Any agency that does not do this gets a 1% cut in their budget each year until they comply. Hell, just freeze any increase in spending- their budget does not increase AT ALL until they can vouch for everything that they spend.

    You could even write a nice, simple little computer program that would automatically take the invoces and recipts and automagically update the webpages. I’d like to see the books adjusted and closed every night (unlikely to happen, only the very TOP corporations do that, I can’t see the gov. being that sharp).

    I can’t see how any gov’t agency can scream and cry for more money if they can’t even tell me where the money they’re getting now is going.

    And yes, when I told a superintendent of a local school district that is what I wanted, he near peed his pants. There’s a tremendous amount of bloat and curruption, if not outright graft, in gov’t spending right now, because there is no transperency. There is no reason for this, AT ALL.

    1. I like it.

      Except, no freeze. Yank. Give a reasonable time period to comply, and any new agency / new project has this from the beginning.

    2. And watch how fast non-national security related government agencies suddenly become security related.

      How about going back to the pre-WWII tax method—no withholding and taxes due every quarter? Make those taxes a bit more visible.

      1. Tax reform- http://www.fairtax.org/

        The tax reform I support currently is the Fair Tax.

        There is a book that’s fairly user-friendly, available at everyone’s favorite Amazon.com


        Not a whole lot of numbers, very easy read.

        My ex has a user-unfriendly blog here http://www.fairtaxblog.blogspot.com/ about the fair tax. He was about a year away from getting his PhD in physics, and is a computer guy- you can tell from the blog. He goes through the numbers very extensively.

        The not-so-great official site is http://www.fairtax.org/

        In a nutshell- abolish all income, ss, witholding, capital gains, death, and corporate income tax.

        Have only one tax- a 23% tax on new goods and services. The current embedded tax rate on new goods and services is about 21%. It also increases the amt. of the economy that is taxed from (iirc, I could be wrong) 30% to 80%.

        Everyone ends up paying less in taxes. Read the mathy blog for more computations 🙂

        That’s what I want to do about input into the system. The other bit I was talking about was simply increasing accountability.

  3. One line from your post here:

    Hopefully the defeat of Initiative One last year, and the defeat (maybe) of Orem's RAP tax this year will send a message. 

    I actually don’t think it will send a message at all. Bureaucratic types typically think voting no on taxes is standard behaviour and that it is rooted in greed. They think “They want all these programs but they’re not willing to pay for them!” even though frequently it’s more that they don’t want all of these programs… Those were exactly the words the Democrats in Colorado used when complaining about those opposing Referendum C.

      1. Hey get your red tape outta my check
        ‘Fore I bust a cap and you hit the deck
        You fancy-suit crackers get drunk on control
        Well don’t stick it on me it’s my money that’s how I roll
        You milk all my brothahs for some “city plan”
        Don’t “We the people” me I know you’re the Man
        I’m not gonna take it while you line your wallet
        Go back to your suburban dream home if that’s what you wanna call it
        Don’t go thinkin’ you’re above bein’ real and honest
        Just ’cause you won some old-white-rich-guy popularity contest
        People let’s axe this tax
        And starve those filthy fat cats

        Of course, if this were real rap, there would be cussing. But I’m a white LDS physics major, and I suspect I shall never be a rapper.

  4. Yes.

    I voted, too, and I, too, am a big fan of fiscal conservatism.
    One of the issues in my state is an amendment to the state constitution transferring budget powers from the governor to the legislature. I voted against it on the basis that the governor only has a certain number of pork projects, whereas the state legislature has that much pork multiplied by the number of members.
    Do you think I made the right move?

  5. Hopefully the defeat of Initiative One last year, and the defeat (maybe) of Orem’s RAP tax this year will send a message.

    You’re dreaming. Those things can’t send a message to political types: you didn’t emphasize them with a subpeona glued around a baseball bat.

  6. I believe in doing it the other way around.

    That the VOTERS get to specify where the taxes are going. Individually. On their tax forms.

    This would have terrible effects the first year, but important good ones afterward.

    1) It eliminates the eternal budget wrangling. The government is TOLD how much it has for what.

    2) After the inevitable disasters, it forces the voters to actually think about what the government SHOULD do,not what they WANT it to do. And about how much they really want it to do that.

    3) It eliminates much of my objection to taxation. Yes, in a perfect world there would be no need for taxes, but granting that they must be, I want to be able to have some say in what the government actually spends it on. If you MUST hold me up and steal my money, at least spend it on something I want.

    Change I want in elections: Add “None Of The Above” as a choice to all elections… and if “None of the Above” wins the election, it must be re-held… AND NONE OF THE PRIOR CANDIDATES ARE ELIGIBLE, as they’ve just all gotten a vote of “no confidence”.

    1. Re: I believe in doing it the other way around.

      Change I want in elections: Add “None Of The Above” as a choice to all elections… and if “None of the Above” wins the election, it must be re-held… AND NONE OF THE PRIOR CANDIDATES ARE ELIGIBLE, as they’ve just all gotten a vote of “no confidence”.
      One recalls the election that put a dead man into public office (true, although I can’t recall details). The result was allowed to stand as he would (at least) not be responsible for any undue expenditure and by not meddling might actually avoid trouble…

      1. Re: I believe in doing it the other way around.

        It happened in Missouri in 2000—Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash just prior to the November elections but the other candidate was so onerous that Mel still won the Senate seat (with his wife taking his place in the Senate).

        His opponent? Well, he went on to other things.

  7. I assume Steve Jackson has ranted to you about the “public works of art” in Austin. Probably more towards the, “Hey, if someone else could get $150K for scrap metal along the 1st Street Bridge over Lamar, why can’t I”.

    Since, well, that’s Steve.

  8. Vote day all over

    Today was vote day here in WA as well. For an off-year, we had quite the spread of interesting ballot measures, though I’ll not waste space in your journal talking about them. I’ve already wasted enough in mine.

    The point about earmarked funds was very interesting. It’s one of those things I think I’ve always known in my gut, but I’ve never really thought about it in those terms. Initiative 912 in WA deals with the very same “earmarked tax increase” type of thing.

    You are an insightful man, Mr. Tayler.

  9. I’m not in favor of any kind of conservatism (if they can demonize the word “liberal”…)

    But I am in favor of efficiency and intelligent resource allocation, which probably comes to the same thing.


    1. By the way, the hot button issue here in austin was #2, “Would you like to outlaw marriage”? (It tried to be some random anti-gay thing, but the way they phrased it would have made it illegal for the state to recognize any state similar or identical to marriage.)

      It turned out there were a dozen fiscal issues on there too, though. (Cap Metro can’t manage to do anything useful with Austin’s bus system: would you like to put them in charge of light rail? No. Do you want to approve $65 million in new taxes to build toll roads we’ll then charge you to use? No.)

      Of course they have new electronic voting machines (no paper trail, the backend is Microsoft Access…) so I doubt it makes much difference what I voted. But I vote anyway to _annoy_ them, darn it…

  10. Erm… Canada. Average tax rate is… 48.2%.
    Sweden. Marginal tax rate (I couldn’t find average) is 65%, almost double that of the US’ 33%. I’m going to assume that also translates into double the average rate, for ease of use.

    Both of the aforementioned countries are doing much better than the US on issues of social responsibility like: Health care, funding for the arts, environmental protections, animal welfare laws, and so on and so forth.

    Fiscal responsibility is all good and nice, but when the general populace fails to accept said responsibility, perhaps the government should be allowed more freedom in the matter.

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