Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

It's about time to give county a little cushion

The big news last week was that the Lake County Commissioners announced their intention to raise the county sales tax by five-tenths of one percent (0.5) — from 6.25 percent to 6.75 percent.

The big question is — what took you so long?

Some kind of a tax increase was inevitable, but nobody in his right mind is crazy about a property tax hike or some kind of a new income tax.

Like Snow White, the sales tax is the fairest one fall. If it really pinches your budget, I would like to take a look at your monthly spending so I can tell you how you are wasting money. (If you spend money on cigarettes, I already know what part of your spending problem is.)

Oh, I know, a handful of negativists will rail against the sales tax increase, but they are vastly outnumbered by those who understand the necessity.

Some folks despise any kind of a tax, no matter how well justified it may be.

Well, if you make a major purchase of $1,000 after April 1 and pay $67.50 in sales tax rather than the current $62.59 – an additional five bucks! – and you think you are being taken to the cleaners, I say you need to go out and get a breath of fresh air.

Either that, or quickly go buy that new big-screen TV right now, before the tax goes up, and save that $5! You can use it to buy a gallon or so of gas.

Before we proceed further, and lest you get the idea I am some kind of a big tax guy, let me assure that I hate all kinds of taxes, in any forms whatsoever, that are extracted from the public by politicians.

This would be a good point at which to tell you what my belief is in how government should function – at all levels, from Washington to Ohio to Lake County and all its subdivisions.

Government should have only three purposes:

1. To protect the citizens. That means internationally, from our enemies who would do us harm, and at home, from those who would prey upon us.

2. To do the things for us that we can’t do for ourselves. We can’t build roads or bridges or put in sewer systems, so the government should do that for us.

3. Leave us alone. Yes, the third major obligation of government is to leave us alone. This is the function least understood in Washington.

Those people think they get elected to do almost everything for almost everybody. That is nonsense!

They should do very little — and then only for those who are in the most desperate need of having something done to help them.

I strongly believe in the U.S. Constitution. And I believe in having people like Justice Antonin Scalia interpret it for me, in case there is something in there I don’t understand.

But I digress.

At the local level, county spending has been cut about as far as it can be cut without doing egregious harm to the process. Government should operate efficiently and effectively without its employees having to go home at night to huddle under shawls and dine on Spam every night.

Much of the focus on county spending over the past few years has been on the sheriff’s department simply because it is one of the largest consumers of tax dollars.

How tight do you want to tighten that belt? Do you want to have one car on the road, with one deputy to drive it? Without sufficient law enforcement (see Purpose One of Government listed above) we will have meth labs springing up all over the county, which is one of the sad consequences Ashtabula County has experienced from overly draconian belt tightening.

I know very well from my term as foreman of the Lake County Grand Jury just a few years ago that the druggies take over where enforcement is lax (read: under-funded).

I am all for economy in government. I am also for spending money where it is needed to preserve a decent lifestyle for the citizens.

The commissioners as much as said that after all the budget-cutting they have done, they don’t want a general relaxation of that policy after new tax money starts coming in.

I say, right on! Keep almost all the cuts in place.

But please, cut the sheriff’s budget a little slack. Closing the minimum security jail in eastern Painesville Township was not an example of a smart thing to do. I visited there with the grand jury and I understand its value.

So let’s operate a smart, tight-fisted county government, but not a dumb one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you can write that nonsense. “What took the county so long to raise taxes?” You know that the Sheriff's Dept. and other government agencies don't force their union employees to make any significant cuts, especially on payroll. Teachers and safety services believe a "pay freeze" is a concession. That is absurd four years into this economic recession. Quit protecting the privileged public employees. They have choices. If they think they are getting a raw deal then they can leave to some mythical other job in the private sector (good luck). Thousands will be lined up to take their place.
The News-Herald has become just a propaganda organ of the unions.

January 23, 2012 at 7:24 AM 

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