On the EDge: Hike those taxes, it’s for the kids

St. George News

OPINION – One of the greatest frustrations of living with the red state blues is the reluctance to acknowledge the need for taxes and the occasional requirement for hiking them.

Remember when George H.W. Bush exclaimed at the 1988 Republican convention, “Read my lips, no new taxes” only to have to back down two years later?

Remember how “trickle-down” economics was supposed to take care of our fiscal woes, only instead, it resulted in a recession?

Someday, maybe, the conservative mindset will come around to understand that taxes are a necessity, especially when the future of our children is at stake.

Utah finds itself in a sorrowful position of sinking revenues for education.

During the last 20 years, the state has dropped from the seventh-highest rating for education funding in the nation to 37th, the result of a 29 percent decrease in funding. In dollars and cents, our funding for K-12 education is $1.2 billion less than it was in 1990.

You can hold however many bake sales, car washes or candy drives you wish and you still won’t make up that deficit. The only way to do it is to raise taxes.

There are, of course, apologists who argue that the problem is because Utah is a sort of anomaly in that there are so many school-age children and fewer adults of working age than elsewhere.

They will argue that per-pupil-spending doesn’t always equate to classroom achievement, which is debatable, especially when you have selfless people working in our schools who have grown accustomed to doing so much more with so little, even to the extent of digging into their own pockets for school supplies, spending their free time on classroom efforts and projects and making the kind of monetary and physical sacrifices to ensure our children are educated.

But, there comes a point where all the volunteerism in the world falls short, all of the good-hearted sacrifices fail and the house of cards comes tumbling down.

Look, we could all use a larger chunk of our money.

It can be painful to pay taxes.

But this isn’t for some frivolous bridge to nowhere or undeserved pay hike for legislators or professional politicians unable to go into the world and get real jobs.

This is about educating our children so they can be competitive in a growing global economy.

Our young people are entering a world where they not only compete with talent from Southern Utah but across the planet.

Part of the problem, of course, is the corporate greed that has figured that it is much cheaper to farm out jobs that were once manned locally to foreign nations where the workforce is equally talented but paid a pittance. It’s how business is done these days.

I know firsthand of a Southern Utah company that was expanding its facility. The city offered an incentive to the business that would have cut taxes and utility costs. The company declined because part of the deal was to agree to pay those working at the site a certain percentage more than the prevailing average wage.

Now those trapped in such an environment are certainly free to look elsewhere for work.

But, to compete in a tightening job market, you need an education, and despite arguments to the contrary, funding is important because, well, you get what you pay for.

That’s why a group of Utah business people have created a group they call Our Schools Now, which is gathering signatures to put a proposal on the 2018 ballot to hike personal income taxes 7/8 of 1 percent, which would add about $750 million to education revenues, or approximately $1,000 per student.

More money in the budget would help reduce classroom numbers and provide programs to intervene in behalf of students lagging behind. It would offer greater educational opportunities and programs for our teachers and help alleviate some of the crunch on their own personal pocketbooks, which they raid regularly to purchase classroom materials. And, it would replace the many good-hearted volunteers who come into the classroom to help with paid professionals who have earned degrees in education.

The money would go primarily to K-12 education, with 15 percent going to higher education and 1 percent earmarked for applied technology colleges.

The measure would ensure local control over the money, with parents, teachers and administrators deciding how best to use it. There would also be some accountability written into the measure requiring schools to put together annual improvement plans to retain full funding.

Ballot initiatives are an awkward way to instigate change. They take time and can be cumbersome and, often, are poorly written, but the advantage is that ballot initiatives are a way to bypass ineffective leaders who are either too timid or regressive to make needed changes, which is the way it goes in Utah where the Legislature often bows to any number of special interests for direction.

But, can there be any interest more special to us than our children?

You will undoubtedly hear arguments from those without children who claim that it is an unfair burden for them to pay into the educational fund through their taxes. But, when you hear that argument, ask who paid for their primary and secondary education.

Our children are not a burden.

Instead, they are our hope for moving forward and completing the work we will leave undone.

The problem here is that 2018 is a bit down the line.

It would be nice if the Legislature grew a spine and stepped up to make up for the financial losses in our classrooms.

But, given the political climate, I doubt that will happen.

Even when it is their own children and grandchildren who stand to benefit.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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11 Comments

  • desertgirl December 6, 2016 at 9:02 am

    The reason people find it so painful to accept tax hikes: all levels of government are horribly wasteful and incompetent. One need only to look at our educational system to find lower test scores compared to decades past and teachers influencing children with their personal political views. Specifically to Utah, far too many living off the taxpayer while having babies they aren’t supporting on their own.

  • Not_So_Much December 6, 2016 at 9:50 am

    NO

  • 42214 December 6, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    It’s always for the kids and all we have to show for our money are worthless millenials than can’t handle life.

  • Ron December 6, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I wouldn’t have a problem with paying taxes to help educate the leaders of tomorrow.
    However, as you state when you write, “…the measure would ensure local control over the money, with parents, teachers and administrators, deciding how best to use it….”, seems to be a problem as evidenced here in Washington County.
    If the Washington County School Board didn’t have so many “administrative” positions paying well over $100,00.00 per year, per position, maybe there would be sufficient funds for “the kids” instead of for the “administrators”.
    Is it any wonder so many qualified/experienced teachers leave for better paying positions elsewhere?
    And don’t forget the State of Utah approved hiring “uncertified” inexperienced “new” teachers, a couple of years back. How is this helping “the kids”?
    Also the amount of taxes being assessed is getting to become a financial burden on some the taxpayers trying to make ends meet. This needs no explanation. There quite a few lower income taxpayers who would be affected negatively with additional taxes being implemented.
    Cut down on some of those “administrative” positions, or better yet, do away with some of them and there would be a substantial savings that could be used for……”the kids”.

  • NotSoFast December 6, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    I share you opinion on the education needs in our state. However,
    I think another 1% sales tax makes as much sense as the shot downed sales tax increase for making our roads sparkle for the tourist.
    For your information, 76% of my yearly real property tax goes to support the local and state school funds already. How about yours? You should look into WHY our state standings really went from 7th place to 37th? Why a 29% short fall in funding really occurred, should make you wonder ‘where did the money go’?
    Do a follow up Ed. We’ll be waiting.

  • This and that December 6, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    If hiking taxes is for the children, then our politicians need to rethink what they spending money on. We have dessert gardens that are built in the middle of the dessert. Wasteful. Food stamps that pay for food that can’t sustain life (like beer, candy and soda). Wasteful. Especially because those who buy these items end up spending additional tax payer money to have dental and medical work done to reverse the effects of their poor choices. There are too many wasteful habits to list them all. And yet, OUR CHILDREN go to schools where teachers donate from their own pockets to provide for their classrooms. I hardly believe raising taxes would benefit our children. It is likely that increased taxes would be wasted elsewhere. What we should do is redistribute tax money from these wasteful sources and give those funds to the children!
    Our children have NEVER been “a burden”. Rather, our society has been burdened by unimportant expectations, laziness and immorality.

  • wilbur December 6, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    The ACTUAL proposed tax increase is about 25% more than Utah taxpayers are currently paying.

    Owe the state $1,000.00 now, hand over $1,250.00 in a few years.

    See how that jibes with your property tax line items for state and local schools.

    Most likely you’ll actually be forking over 1/3 more for those two items.

    It is dis-ingenuously stated as “7/8 of 1 percent” by its boosters (COC and the “education blob” folks).

    Not true.

    (Libs like Ed never were able to do math – that’s why they majored in “studies”)

  • Thecadean December 6, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Government can be very patient in allocating resources. Many things in the economy are driven by economies of scale. Utilities military freeways all the services. I say to people who wish for lower Taxes to take a look at Mexico. Mexico has no inheritance tax very low property taxes and almost no income tax. Sometimes you get what you pay for and in this case it is very true. Everything has the balancing point I see school taxes and school fees as user fees it’s either that or send your kids to private schools that can run 10 to $30,000 a year.

  • Henry December 6, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    There’s not a direct correlation between higher education spending and student performance. Washington D.C. has one of the highest levels of spending, but dismal results. Likewise the U.S. has one of the world’s highest levels of educational spending, but poor results.

    As others have pointed out, the U.S. has more administrative (non-teaching) positions that almost any other country. Having served as a teacher for several years, I can attest that the majority of these admin positions detract from, rather than add to, students’ educational performance.

    Several other drags on student performance that the U.S. is among the world leaders: least amount of school days and most spending on non-academic areas (such as sports and “self esteem” training, etc.).

    The biggest single thing that determines a student’s academic performance: parents that have high academic expectations for their child and have instilled self discipline in them.

  • Robert December 6, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    IF and that is a big if, the money was spent as stated, then great, but we all know it will NOT be spent as stated. All one has to do is look at what is going on in Washington County today and you know what will happen to any “new” money. Sorry, but until the county and school board corrects the lavish life style they promote now, there is NO WAY I, or any of my family, will support this or any other new tax, even if they try and use the kids as the crying towel.

  • dodgers December 6, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Funding does not translate to the success of education.
    Our educational system has become too bureaucratic, too many high paid Chiefs, not enough Indians. The administrators are paid too much and there is too much waste.
    Too many kids in families that expect others to pick up the tab. Perhaps limit the state income tax deductions to two children. Or charge parents an annual school fee as well. Stop sticking everybody else with the bill.

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