Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

The Tyranny of Low Taxes

Posted by Adam Graham on June 7, 2007

It’s time to respond to some Letters to the Editor. Victor Watson writes on Tuesday:

Recently, as a colleague and I discussed and exulted over the historic 68 percent supermajority passage of the community college, my friend commented that it was too bad a minority can dictate to the majority. She is absolutely correct. (Just to keep my comments in context, I am a conservative; no namby-pamby, tax-loving liberal am I. But I recognize that government entities have to be funded by the public.)

You always have to be a little careful when people make that claim, because it’s usually followed by a load of unconservativeness. The issue isn’t whether government has to be funded by the public, but how much and what the requirement should be for doing this:

In virtually every other referendum, including public elections, the simple majority wins. Conservatives have a fit if a minority ethnic or special-interest group pushes for privileges. “How can these minorities have such influence,” we demand. And we extol the virtues of majority rule in elections, carefully counting percentage points over 50 percent. In two other states as I participated in college tax referenda where a simple majority was the rule, we considered 61 percent of the vote a landslide. Yet in Idaho, it is not only a minority, but a super minority that can nullify a majority wish. We used to call that tyranny. Are there no legislators who will rid us of the tyranny of supermajority?

Peter Humm answers this quite well in yesterday’s letters:

I am getting tired of the griping from supporters of various bond issues about the requirement to get a two-thirds supermajority of voters to pass a tax increase. Most bond elections are deliberately scheduled to avoid the regular elections, which ensures a low turnout (25 percent of registered voters).

Bond issues that increase property taxes require only a two-thirds (67 percent) approval of those 25 percent of the registered voters. Two-thirds of only 25 percent of registered voters can therefore pass a tax increase that affects all property owners, and two-thirds of 25 percent is 16.7 percent of all registered voters (math: .25 times .667 equals .167). This is more like a tiny minority of all registered voters, not the supermajority you keep griping about. Pro-tax groups only have to persuade a tiny minority of 16.7 percent of registered voters to turn out and support their new tax. So please stop whining about needing a supermajority of voters.

Precisely. The first issue I voted on here in Idaho was a proposed Auditorium District in February, 2004. It contained Boise as well as Garden City. General polling places were closed. The vote was held in February. If memory serves me right, turnout was under 10%, in part because less than 10 polling places (which were not people’s usual places to vote) were used. What Mr. Watson seems to be saying is that in an election like that, that Majority should be able to committ all the property owners in the town to that proposition. No liberal has even come on this blog or their own blog to argue why this is right or fair. The requirement of 2/3 majority insures you have to work and get a lot of support before raising taxes.

We also live in a Republic, not a Democracy, and I find the idea that 2/3 of the people have to say yes comforting, that means before committing everyone’s money, we get a great deal of support which will lessen and mitigate possible resentment down the road.

In Tuesday’s letter, there was also an interesting letter from Daniel Forrey:

I believe divorce is being over-used and it’s making it too easy for people to end marriages. If divorce was outlawed people would think twice before getting married so fast. Today people go into a marriage thinking that they’re not obligated to commitment. They think that if it gets bad they can just take the easy way out and get divorced.

Divorce doesn’t just affect the couple. It could affect any kids they may have. Divorce is tearing families apart nationwide. Single-parent homes are unstable, financially as well as emotionally. In a divorce you have to split everything in half. Children are the main ones who get torn apart in a divorce. They get torn through things like custody battles and having to move around from place to place.

I understand the sentiment and Mr. Forrey has a great point. Of course, we can’t end divorce because there are still legitimate reasons for it. I favor an approach like that taken by Frank Keating with the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative has had some success in reducing divorce and it’s an approach I support: providing education and support for marriages within the state.

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