If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This common cliché could serve as the new motto for the Gahanna City Council. Perhaps they could put it on t-shirts and bumper stickers and sell the merchandise rather than attempt to impose a voter-rejected tax hike upon the people they represent.
Here’s a quick re-cap: The City Council requested feedback from the public in January 2013 regarding their proposal to increase the income tax. Much of the response they received suggested holding the election in November rather than May to ensure that the voice of more voters would be heard. That message was discounted. The City Council appeared confident that the decision could be made at the primary election date, and the tax increase proposal was added to the May ballot.
So in May of this year, when the proposed income tax hike was put before the people, Gahanna voters rejected it. The election turnout was 200 percent higher than in previous non-school primaries, and the issue was defeated by 122 votes (51.62%), with 3,770 voting.
Unhappy with the outcome and citing an inability to make any budget cuts, the Gahanna City Council has decided to put the tax hike to the voters again this November. They seem content to move forward as if the May vote never occurred even though the city spent nearly $100,000 of taxpayer funds on the May election.
The proposed tax hike would increase the income tax by 1 percentage point from 1.5% to 2.5%, which would represent a 67% increase. Since this is a regressive income tax, there is no way for taxpayers to avoid the increase’s impact, regardless of income level, and—as is too often the case—those who can least afford to pay more will be affected the most.
Proponents of the tax hike assert that absent the tax hike revenue, Gahanna will not be able to provide services to residents and will have to continue with painful budget cuts. However, according to Media Trackers, Gahanna’s spending has increased by 27.6% between 2008 and 2013. I doubt many residents of Gahanna have seen their income increased by that amount over the same period of time, yet they make due. Many families in Ohio have been forced to get by with less during these difficult economic times. They have managed to make difficult cuts. They should be able to expect the same of the people they elect to represent them and spend their hard-earned tax dollars.
According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, Americans will spend more in taxes in 2013 than they will on food, clothing, and housing—combined. Here at home, Ohioans worked until April 12, 2013 to reach what is known as Tax Freedom Day, the day when the hard-working families of this state finally have earned enough money to pay off their total tax bill for the year. Increasing taxes only adds to this burden and pushes that date further down the calendar. Every dollar spent in taxes represents one less spent on the priorities set by our families on items like food, clothing, and housing, which in turn support local businesses. The majority of the residents of Gahanna get this, and that is why they rejected this tax hike the first time.
Now they must stand together again on November 5 and reject this tax hike for the second time in one year, all because City officials were unhappy with the outcome of the election held in May. What assurance do voters have that if they reject the measure again their voice will be heeded this time? None. This is a dangerous precedent to set, and the voters of Gahanna have no choice but to unite once again and tell their City Council – Hands Off My Paycheck! Here’s hoping this time the message gets through.
Eli Miller is the State Director of Americans for Prosperity – Ohio and Americans for Prosperity Foundation – Ohio.
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