Friday, May 16, 2014

A sensible tea party manifesto

On days when I go downtown I usually stop at the coffee shop for a small English breakfast tea. This costs $2.25, and I drop a quarter in the tip jar. Wailuku Coffee Shop stamps my frequent drinker card and every 11th cup is free, so my net cost is about $2.30 cents a cup.

Now a useful way to think of the national budget is in "Solyndras." One Solyndra is not quite $500,000,000, so that, for example, the USNS Choctaw County, the naval version of the Superferry, costs about three-tenths of a Solyndra. Wailuku Coffee Shop cups of tea are a useful way to think of the county budget.

A letter to the editor this week claimed that union labor would soon bankrupt the county, so that the unions should be destroyed. Is this true?

Not only not true but ridiculously upside down. Yet it is not hard to find people who think county taxes are too high. I'm lookin' at you, Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Mike White.

I recently paid my half-year property tax. Property tax is the largest source of county revenue, which needs to reach something over $600 million (about 1.1 Solyndras). We soak the hotels, but Council Member White, despite being a hotel manager, is not concerned about the high tax on hotels. He is worried about residential rates.

Really, Mike? I am paying $50 a month on a house the assessor thinks is worth around $500,000. For that I get police and fire protection 24/7, parks, a division to enforce zoning laws, the prosecutor, subsides for animal control and various other social services etc.

For $1.67 a day, less than I spend on tea.

Now there are other county services I pay for separately: The country's only opt-in opala collection ($2.08 a pickup for 2 pickups a week, which includes upkeep of an environmentally safe landfill); water ($15-$18 a month, or enough for around 4,000,000 cups of tea); and the vehicle and gasoline taxes, which keep the roads in (not very good) repair.

Vehicle taxes are around $250 per vehicle, and I haven't tried to calculate how much I pay in gas tax, but it isn't much.

So, trash, about 90 cups of tea; water, about 80 cups of tea; roads, maybe 1,000 cups of tea (I have 4 cars), and everything else, about 260 cups of tea. I hardly think that is an insupportable burden.

I have long wanted higher property taxes, if that will lead to a better life, for example by increasing funding for the Maui Invasive Species Committee. I was attacked by fire ants in Georgia when I was in junior high school and I still remember that and would pay a large amount not to have to worry about its happening again.

I get that many people on Maui struggle with housing costs and I see no reason to increase taxes on them. Mike White's low rates are appropriate for, say, the first $200,000 to $300,000 of real residential property. But taxes on more valuable homes should be higher. Much higher.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in a house worth more than $250,000 can afford it.

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