The property tax
reductions promised Texas homeowners has not yet appeared, but today the
Austin American Statesman reports Wal-Mart will save an estimated $2.8
million dollars a year in property taxes thanks to a state funded
The State of Texas has
gone into the land development business using powers and leverage only
available to government. By doing so the State is now directly competing
with private enterprise and violating the most fundamental principles of
You can wrap it in public
school funding platitudes, but at its core it is still wrong.
Creative accounting in
Austin appears to make money appear out of thin air. Someone needs to
explain how Wal-Mart can skip paying nearly $3 million a year in
property tax without that having an impact on local government.
Bottom line, Wal-Mart is
paying less than they would without the State giving them preferential
treatment over other businesses. The State isnít even requiring
employment or investment targets be met as they would if a county or
city were providing economic development incentives. And in the process
the State is collecting more than its fair share. It's no surprise that
both think it a good deal. Wal-Mart pays less and the State makes more.
This is another recent
example of government greed. It's the kind of win-win-win accounting we
would expect Enron to have approved.
What is government greed
democratic society the government taxes the governed to provide certain
limited services. Unfortunately, we have created a direct linkage
between government spending and winning elections. When the elected
officials who operate our government desire to spend more than the
governed are willing to pay for it creates a political conflict. It is
very simple and nothing new, spending is popular and taxing is not. To
overcome that conflict the government improperly is driven to generate
its own revenue independent of taxes, something I call government greed.
At first that might look like a good thing, less taxes and more
services. However, it creates an even greater conflict. It undermines
the fundamental principles of our democracy and capitalist system.
Moreover it abandons fiscal restrain and responsibility. Revenues
derived from non-traditional tax sources are often treated with
significantly less public accountability. Somehow we view taxes as our
money, something we earn, while other monies are akin to gifts and
Texas Land Commissioner
Jerry Patterson calls this deal, "the flagship of our future efforts in
the real estate area." If so, we would call this first ship in the fleet
the HMS Taxtanic.
When did we make the leap
in philosophy that allows our government to compete with private
enterprise; exchange business advantage, privilege and protection for
state financial gain; conduct pubic business and negotiate agreements in
secret; put the protection of private business interests above that of
the public interest; surrender accountability; and, abdicate the
responsibility of government to provide services to share in the private
profits generated in selling those services? Are these American values?
Toll tags for children who
play in our parks? Why not? That's the logic being applied by TxDOT
today. Just consider it a user fee and your backyard the free
alternative. Maybe a French concessionaire will build and maintain your
parks and pay a handsome government fee for the right to charge
taxpayers to use the basketball courts, ball fields, swings, slides and
even the grass. Just think how great our parks could be. After all we
don't have money to build all the parks we need and we could get them
built years sooner.
Maybe its time we pay a
user fee whenever we call the police or fire department.
Or maybe its time we take
a good hard look at the direction we're headed and make a serious course
[ AUSTIN AMERICAN STATESMAN NEWS