Summary: Public Officials and special interests inevitably define "leveling the playing field" as increasing taxes. All four current legislative initiatives designed to bring about a level playing field would result in increased taxes and windfalls for government programs (resolution on credit unions, single sales tax rate, tax credits for education charities and the Jones-Mascaro tax bill). None of these initiatives as currently proposed would reduce taxes for the average citizen. End Summary.
Why is it that whenever elected officials or their special interest allies call for a "leveling of the playing field," it inevitably means higher taxes for citizens?
At the present time, there are at least four efforts to "level the playing field." All attempt to end tax inequities as defined by public officials and/or special interests. But rather than leveling the field by lowering taxes, the focus is on raising taxes and on preserving or increasing the revenue flowing to government programs.
Once again the state's banks are pushing the legislature to level the playing field with the credit unions. And once again, rather than asking to be relieved of taxes they pay and that credit unions don't, their solution is to impose new taxes on credit unions and their hundreds of thousands of members. This protects the bank's current position as well as providing a windfall for government funded public education. But is it fair to demand that citizens pay more in order to give the banks what they want at no extra cost and for a government program to receive additional tax revenues? Why wouldn't it be just as fair to relieve the banks of their burden, ask government education to take a little less and for citizens to keep a little more?
A proposal for a single rate sales tax for Utah selects one of the highest sales tax rates from among the literally hundreds that exist throughout the state. The logic seems to be that it would be unfair to reduce government's income and programs but that there is nothing wrong with taking more from the vast majority of citizens. In addition, the single rate sales tax would facilitate the taxation of internet purchases. Once again, wouldn't it be fairer if government were to limit the amount of taxes collected and reduce costs, thereby leaving citizens with a little more of their money?
A level playing field for educational charities denies state tax credits for donations to a scholarship program for low-income families. Rather than seeking to extend the credit to all educational charities and reduce the tax burden of citizens, the answer is to make everyone pay at the highest level. Again, the education charities that would not benefit from a limited credit are protected by denying the credit to everyone and government either maintains or increases its current revenue stream. This is extremely fair to them. But why shouldn't the citizen be given a state tax break for donating to programs that help relieve the burden on government funded education?
The Jones-Mascaro bill would require those who make the greatest use of the public education to pay more in taxes. What could be fairer? But hidden in their bill is a proposal to eliminate the state income tax deduction for federal taxes paid. In other words, they will tax citizens on money spent to pay federal income taxes. Again, the purpose here is to increase the funds available for government programs while sticking it to the average citizen. Wouldn't it be fairer to citizens if the bill recognized that citizens should not pay taxes on money used to pay taxes as is currently the policy?
Isn't it interesting that in all four of the above cases, the level playing field benefits government and its special interest allies while, in every case, taking still more from the average citizen? Does this mean that there is a conscious conspiracy against citizens? We don't think so.
What it does mean, however, is that Utah's "conservative" public officials, special interests and those benefiting from increased tax revenues, simply fail to consider the citizens who pay the taxes in their deliberations. The individual citizen is, unfortunately, viewed by most elected officials, special interests and virtually all government programs as a never ending source of revenue whose pockets are waiting to be picked. Perhaps this is the reason that Utah's state and local tax burden is among the highest in the nation.
Wouldn't it be fairer if citizens were given equal billing with those who are constantly clamoring for more? And, wouldn't it be even fairer if the citizens earning the money were to determine what they will do with it rather than having it taken through the power of the state? After all, it is their money, not the government's.