There are plenty of frustrations about taxes in the U.S. and so there should be. Although we are far from the most taxed people even among highly developed nations, much resentment is caused by the complexity of the federal tax code and perceptions of unfairness. Money disappears from our paychecks and we’re never quite sure how it is spent.
This is one reason why it’s usually better to keep government — and the taxes that pay for it — as local as possible. A tax collected in a community and spent there has great accountability. We can see where it goes, raise objections if it is misspent and kick officials out of office if they break promises. Local tax money passes through fewer hands, meaning a bigger share of it gets spent getting things done.
This is true of the Transportation Benefit District proposed by the city of Long Beach. By adding a 2 cent tax on a $10 purchase, Long Beach can catch up with repairing worn-out streets. It couldn’t be spent on anything but transportation-related work. It wouldn’t apply to purchases of groceries, prescriptions, gasoline, rent or mortgages. A good portion would be paid by tourists.
Long Beach’s plan is conservative and sensible. It deserves support.
Merchants in border counties in southern Washington state are in the awful position of having to compete with nearby Oregon rivals who aren’t required to charge sales tax. This makes our businesses understandably antsy about any increases in the high sales tax, which we pay instead of a state income tax. There have been attempts to switch to different tax systems. State residents haven’t trusted these proposals.
It is worth advocating to legislators that border towns like Long Beach and Ilwaco receive more aid to pay for street upkeep in light of the sales-tax handicap we struggle under. But in the meantime, it’s up to us to help ourselves.