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Monday, August 2, 2010

Raising Taxes and Spending Not Conservative

THE GUARDIAN is publishing this opinion piece published in the local paper by permission from Mr. Hoffman.

Raising taxes, spending not conservative
by Wayne Hoffman

Only in the land of government excess could an increase in taxes and spending be deemed “conservative.” That, however, is what some city leaders throughout Idaho are trying to convince us. Because they can’t govern in a conservative manner, they’re redefining what it means to be conservative. It’s just a marketing ploy, and an unfortunate one at that.

Last month, the Sandpoint City Council unveiled a budget and hailed it as “conservative” even though it contemplated an increase in spending of 2 percent. I can’t possibly make this stuff up. And to prove it, here’s a quote from a member of the city government:

“It’s a conservative budget this year,” Councilman Stephen Snedden said last month after the increased budget was unveiled.

See? Told you.

Days ago, the Sandpoint newspaper announced that no city employees would be getting raises in the coming year, but upon further reading, it turns out public safety employees would receive “wage adjustments.” Out in the real world, we call these “raises.”

In Coeur d’Alene, the city is contemplating a 1.5 percent increase in property taxes. “We’re asking the citizens an awful lot, but this is the best balance we can come up with,” said Mayor Sandi Bloem, according to a story in the Coeur d’Alene Press.

In Nampa last week, Mayor Tom Dale said the city has put together a “conservative” budget that will raise property taxes by 5 percent. The city will accomplish this by collecting the 2 percent it could have collected last year but didn’t, and the 3 percent it can collect this year.

In reality, the people who run government — and certainly the people behind these budget proposals — don’t understand conservatism at all. The folks who get it are the people who run businesses and have to meet a payroll. As much as businesses would like to institute a tax to collect more revenue, they can’t. They’ll make the really hard choices, or they’ll go out of business. They’ll cut expenses. That means reducing benefits, getting rid of insurance coverage altogether, cutting wages and letting employees go. Indeed, people on fixed incomes understand conservatism also. They have to cut household expenses in order to meet a budget.

They have no choice.

Elected officials throughout Idaho have largely avoided these tough choices, instead throwing up their hands and saying, “We’ve done all we can. Time to raise taxes.” And in order to justify it, they’ll claim that without these tax increases, some government service will suffer — usually police or fire protection. The threat of not having a police officer come when you call is usually enough to convince the public that maybe a small increase in taxes would be OK after all. Meanwhile, city governments hang onto their high wages, their generous health insurance and vacation packages and their over-staffed agencies.

Once the budget is passed, they’ll use their publicly-paid PR firms and communications directors to tell us just how conservative they were. And then if we fail to pay their higher taxes, they’ll threaten to take our homes and businesses away. So tell me then, where’s the conservatism in that?

• Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. E-mail him at


  1. Our so called civic leaders are not living in the real world where your paycheck is not gauranteed. I would love to be able to go to my clients and tell them I'm a little short this year so I'm going to raise my fee , Gee I wonder how that would work out in todays economy. Mr. Dale and co. need a good dose of reality such as working a real job.

  2. Nampa and Mr. Dale would have us all belive they have come up with a "conservative" budget this year. I think I saw $600,000 plus going to the Idaho Center out of property taxes. Dale loves to spend big money on projects like the Idaho Center and tell us it is at no cost to taxpayers... we did it with urban renewal money. Where does he think that money comes from? It is our property taxes and he is playing sleight of hand and three card monty with us.

  3. Amen to that one. Of course if they prescribed to their own philosophy they would have ended the war on drugs long ago. We wouldn't continue to waste so much money on such an expensive morality crusade.

  4. I saw Tom Dale's comment in the paper this morning calling a 5% increase a conservative budget! I also liked the part about the state legislature balancing the budget with what they think they have to spend and no more. Dale is full of BS if he thinks anyone is buy this. Even his budget director says his spending is unsustainable. Vote the rascals out! Dale is spending millions and millions on his pet urban renewal projects and all that money is property taxes thta should have gone into the general fund. This is insanity.


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