Recently the mayor of Goshen wrote an editorial in the city newsletter, “Maple City Now,” in which he encouraged people to vote for candidates running for state office who will raise taxes. He said, “This year’s election for state offices could be the most significant in history for quality of life in Indiana cities and towns. Recent year’s decisions in the Indiana Legislature have not been kind to city, town and county governments. All have seen continuing reductions in property taxes, income taxes, road and street funding and other miscellaneous taxes from the state of Indiana.”
First, it is inappropriate to use tax-funded mailings for political purposes. Elected officials are to use their own campaign funds for that.
Additionally, many of the points and facts were misleading. Though he is correct that the money flows through the state, many of these taxes are determined by the number of hours workers work, the value of one’s home and the number of gallons of gasoline purchased. The reductions he speaks about are a result of a recession that has seen fewer people working, thus less income taxes, lower home values resulting in lower property taxes and fewer miles driven with more efficient cars resulting in less gas tax. To blame that on state policy is incorrect, negative and shortsighted.
He’s shortsighted because the city’s income will increase over the next few years without raising taxes. Home values will come back up over time in Goshen, increasing the property taxes. Jobs are coming back, which will create more income tax. And as the economy improves gas purchases always increase. Most of the city’s and county’s reduction of income is a result of the recession.
The mayor also makes the incorrect conclusion that a city cannot have quality of life unless it raises taxes. It’s not government that builds quality of life, it’s the people. The merchants, citizens and volunteers of Goshen have donated time and risked their personal capital to improve our quality of life. Here’s a sample of what gives us quality of life in Goshen: First Fridays, services clubs, 4-H activities, Goshen College, theater groups, the Chamber of Commerce, The Brew, Greencroft, farmers markets, the hotdog stand, the hospital, The Old Bag Factory, cruise-ins, Mennonite Relief Sale, Salvation Army, The Depot, The Window, The Boys and Girls Club, The Chief, The Crossings School, vibrant churches, Ryan’s Place, Souder Music Hall, Adlai Schrock’s subdivisions, The Club House, Ten Thousand Villages, Oaklawn, Tommy’s Kid Castle, Shanklin pavilion and Fourth of July fireworks.
All of these were started and are maintained by non government groups. And this is only a small list of what makes Goshen so very, very great. We have thousands of volunteers and hundreds of businesses who give generously to projects every year. What makes Goshen and the other communities in Elkhart County so special are our people, not our government.
Kauffman also was incorrect when he said the reason young people were leaving Indiana is because they were going to states with higher taxes to get quality of life. The fastest growing state for businesses and jobs for young people over the past number of years has been Utah. The reason — lower taxes.
I would also remind the mayor (and all elected officials) that the property tax caps he often blames the state for, were placed on a referendum in 2010 and an overwhelming 71 percent of the voters’ favored making tax caps a constitution amendment. Blaming the legislators for tax caps is political mudslinging. Why did 71 percent of the people vote for making the caps constitutional? Because taxpayers know government officials always want to find ways to raise taxes to spend more money. Taxpayers are tired of that.
The referendum was a clear signal to office holders of both parties, “Don’t raise my taxes.” When the recession came, citizens tightened their belts because going to their bosses and asking for more money wasn’t an option. Nor should it be for elected officials.
The private sector often finds ways to do things better without raising prices. They have to because of competition. Government does not have competition, so it often turns to the easiest way to solve its problems by raising taxes. Rather they should look for new ways to deliver superior services without raising taxes.
So, instead of asking candidates if they are willing to raise taxes, I encourage you to ask them if they have what it takes to offer superior services without raising taxes.
Wes Culver is a Goshen businessman and a Republican state representative for District 49 here in Elkhart County.