Monday, December 01, 2008

Florida's Natives Left Holding the Tab

I have had a lot of experience in the political arena, and I'm well-read and educated. However, I had absolutely no idea that our Federal government's economic vision was predicated on continual growth (an unrealistic vision at best). And it became another, though lesser, surprise when I found out that Florida's government did, as well.

Florida at one time was an absolutely beautiful state, untouched by many. Over the years in certain areas it has become polluted and overcrowded, with too much unchecked growth raping the land, and dwindling water supplies. The Tampa Bay area now lives under constant watering restrictions when at one time there was always enough for all. We steal water from our northern cousins, who groan and complain but cave to the greater interest.

We environmentalists were unheard, as the almighty dollar drove us forward.

Condos and entire "communities" * were built on the shores, blocking and destroying beach views and even preventing access to beaches that once belonged to us all. We natives began to be charged for access to our own beach in Clearwater, when and if we were ever lucky enough to find parking.

Homes were also built on former farmland and protected wildlife areas which magically became unprotected. Schools were built to house the children of these new interlopers, shopping centers and restaurants were built to cater to them, and the government cheered because there was more money to spend.

Now schools are closing, property values are dropping (thankfully) which alleviates the taxation we natives have been subjected to (as the newbies have driven the costs up). And the government has discovered, much to it's unfettered surprise, that growth in Florida has finally abated.

This is a mixed blessing: I am tempted to jump up and cheer, because this may finally cause the government to re-evaluate its policies toward growth and the environment. But we know that government is generally ineffective and, like the worst doctors, they always treat the symptoms - never the disease.

In the meantime, although we have increasing elbow room, the roads aren't as crowded, and the remaining 2% of the undeveloped land in this area can breathe a (temporary) sigh of relief, the fact remains that we are also seeing job losses and less money, overall, in our economy.

This means that we natives, once elbowed out and ignored, will end up being the ones stuck with the tab as the encroachers move on to new territory to conquer.

The Floridian government must both cut back spending and find some way to increase revenues. There aren't many ways to do that. Taxes and the Florida Lottery are, in fact, the only way.

The Terrifying Tax would be a State Income Tax, followed by increased property taxes dished out to a populace that is barely able to scrape up enough to pay exorbitant yearly bills. Currently, taxes in the Tampa Bay area seem to be averaging around $2,000 a year for a standard, older and smaller home. I have no idea what the Mega Houses are being taxed at, but it must be significantly higher.

And yet for the Floridian government to keep Florida appealing, they will hesitate to raise property taxes in a state where homes are being abandoned left and right. And a State Income Tax would make people think twice before they moved here to become part of the blood-rich system that the parasitic government feeds upon.

So the current thought is to turn to a "Sin Tax". I love the idea, but there is much wrong with it.

Sin Taxes traditionally are taxes levied upon "sinful" items such as alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling.

A tax on cigarettes would be a welcome thing to me, as I'm a chronic asthmatic who is forced to smoke at the hands of total strangers. There are times I'll walk out of a store and be immediately subjected to a cloud of smoke, as the store employees are standing around outside, taking that 'necessary' cigarette break. Walking out of a store and into an asthma attack is something that no one should be subjected to. A cigarette tax would lessen the chances, as it would drive down consumption.

Let me restate that: It would drive down consumption.

You see, Sin Taxes only work if they're applied to lifestyle choices that remain constant. But in tough economic times, people cut back on their indulgences. Additional taxes may only encourage them to cut back further, thus bringing in no additional revenue to the state coffers.

On the other hand, Florida's 34-cent-per-pack cigarette tax was the fifth lowest in the nation last year, according to the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, and hasn't been raised since 1990. It certainly wouldn't hurt to consider this tax before we consider others.

However, thanks to the government's unrealistic expectations, we now must consider something. I only hope that it will be something which will not punish those of us who never asked for all of this.

*Communities are all the rage here, both gated and ungated. What are they? A builder buys up a chunk of land and squeezes as many oversized houses into that area as possible. This results in homes that are sometimes only feet apart, with windows open to each other so that your neighbors' business becomes your own overnight.


Ed Abbey said...

I'm kind of amazed you missed that one about the government budget being based on continual growth. Although I don't know who started that ideology, I think it has been around since at least Reagan.

Iowa is just has bad and always wails and gnashes teeth whenever some report shows our population declining. Yet our budget keeps increasing every year.

And it doesn't stop there. It trickles right down to the local economy where our city budget keeps increasing every year while our town slowly shrivels up and dies. They've been trying to shove a new school down our throats to replace the 40 year old one we have now for several years. Fortunately the economic downturn has sidelined that though I doubt it is for good.

For once, I wish we would be happy with what we have and not seek out growth in population, city sizes, budgets, etc. Let's just stay in this era for awhile and turn it into a couple decades worth.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ed, Guess it was a blind spot. I had no idea.

I agree - I do not see growth as "all that". I am more than happy with the status quo. As is the case in your town, a new school is not always necessary - sometimes all that's needed are modifications. Too often the government is spend-happy and loves the shiny new toys when the old ones still work just as well.

M@ said...

Daniel may find some way to disagree with you on your concern about asthma and the environment.

Sometimes, retrenchment can be a good thing. It's a reality check.

Saur♥Kraut said...

M@, ;o)

And yes, retrenchment can be very good, as long as wise heads prevail. I hope.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I only started disagreeing with Saur when she lost her mind when Obama won.

Normal service is resumed perhaps and hopefully when Obama takes power and the US doesn't become a Muslim state we can all get down to having fun again.

You should read his books if you haven't all ready.

Scott said...

You could always move to Ontario where we currently play 13% sales tax. 8% to the Province and 5% to the Federal government. Then on top of that we pay a Provincial income tax and a Federal Income tax, and if that is not enough we have insanely high 'sin' taxes. I am not a smoke so I could care less but I believe that a pack of cigarettes up in these parts costs almost $10. What is interesting though is that these 'sin' taxes have in no way slowed down the consumption of said products. It is so counterintuitive to believe that but it is our reality.



Saur♥Kraut said...

Scott, really? You haven't found that people cut back on their 'sins'? Very interesting - I wonder if that will hold true here. There are studies that indicate that they will cut back, but they're by no means infallible, of course, and times change.

As for your taxes: Good grief! But of course you do have additional goodies, such as socialized medicine (which overall I approve of, despite some of my friends' disagreement).

Daniel, I didn't like Obama before he won, remember? And as I said, if it was McCain, I wouldn't like him much better, either, and you'd hear me howling like a wounded lion if (and probably when) he brought on all of the Bushanistas to flush out his staff. Neither one was a good choice, IMHO, but I surely hope and pray that I'm proven wrong. When and if I am, I will be shouting it from the rooftops and will do entire posts marvelling at how wrong I was.

...and I KEEP my campaign promises, unlike most.

daveawayfromhome said...

I'm not sure how you could have missed the constant growth thing. I'd have thought that the stock plunges and teeth-gnashing whenever some company announced that it's profits were lower than expected (not a lack of profits, lower profits) would have told you something was up. After all, the people who've run Washington are pro-business folks who think we ought to run government like a business.

Funny thing about the current "crisis": sales are down about 1% compared to last year. In other words, the national economy is down this year about the same as the Daveawayfromhome economy has been every year since the new millenia.
Funny how it was never a crisis until the bankers were feeling it, huh?

No one in business is happy anymore when just making a living, they all want to make a killing.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Dave, Oh so very true. And yeah, you're right - I shouldn't have missed it, but never the less, I did. I guess I always assumed 'expected' profits were profits. Period.

Uncle Joe said...

Speaking as only a true partisan can, I'm against asthma AND condoms littering Florida's beaches.

The Lazy Iguana said...

Well - I did not vote for the CARPETBAGGER Yankee who bought a Florida home than ran for Governor some 6 or 7 months later.

Chiles kicked his ass.

But he won the following election.

So when you allow a non native carpetbagger to be the man, you get what you deserve.

Florida will never have a state income tax. I just do not see that happening. It would never pass a popular vote. Hell the measure to allow Counties to propose a 1/2 cent sales tax for community colleges which would have to be approved by another election failed. It was not even a tax. It was just a proposal to allow another vote for a 1/2 cent sales tax.

The current Governor and his tax cut plan has bankrupted many communities. As I predicted. This is why I had to vote no on the plan. Not because I am opposed to the idea, I was just opposed to that plan.

Why should a $1 million luxury condo get a property tax cut? Can't afford the tax? Sell the condo to someone who can and move into some other home. Maybe even a home that does qualify for a cut. You know - a house closer to the median value?

Regular people get a few hundred bucks, multimillionaires get thousands back. Thousands they do not really need to make any end meet. This is "relief"?

It really makes me laugh when idiots who live in tin cans go on and on and on about how "unfair" taxes are and that not everyone "pays their share" and that a flat tax is needed.

I guess they do not realize that they would end up paying MORE so the asshole on the radio they listen to can pay a lot less? Or that their low property value home will get back a pittance, while the huge mansion on the beach gets back tens of thousands?

In the meantime, public schools had to cut back on just about everything. The promised teacher pay raise (which was not much - less than $1k a year) is off the table.

The rich who can afford a $10,000 a year tuition to a fancy private school will not see any cutbacks for their idiot kids. They do not care if public schools fall off the face of the Earth.

So enjoy your even MORE underfunded public schools Central Florida! I hope your vast $200 property tax cut can pay for the elite private school tuition!

And if it cant, well then feel better that the rich living on Star Island in their $10 million + homes are able to make ends meet now that they have a pretty big property tax cut. No doubt in my mind that they will not "expand their business" and create more jobs - or hand out raises to existing employees.

By the way, I would LOVE to see the sin tax. Really. Bring it. These kinds of taxes are always popular with people who claim to not have any vices.

But I bet when they hit - a LOT of the pure people without any vice at all because sin is evil will be bitching a lot over the price hike on their 6 pack. And somehow blame people like me for it.

Because even in small towns that have a Church on every street corner and everyone goes to Sunday services and everyone pretends that drinking is this big major sin and I will surely go to hell for wanting a beer on Sunday have a lot of stores that sell smokes and beer. So someone buys it.