Sunday, December 6, 2015

My View: Boone County Board does not trust the voting public - Opinion - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL


In response to Don Ellingson’s letter (Nov. 19) regarding the Boone County public safety sales tax. He asked us to use common sense; with that, I totally agree. But let us base that common sense on fact, not on rhetoric.
Fact: To insinuate that the sunset clause was simply not included is a misrepresentation of fact. When the original public safety sales tax referendum was presented to the county, the state did not permit the inclusion of a sunset clause — an omission that has now been corrected — partially because of this issue. Therefore, if the county had passed the referendum with a sunset clause, it would have been illegal. Given the statements made by the proponents of the tax and discussion that ensued at the time, had the sunset clause been legal, it would have most assuredly been added.
Fact: A previous board cannot bind a future board to certain actions. Previous boards bind future boards all the time with budgets and capital projects and other legislative measures, such as animal-control facilities and interstate interchanges. Some binding measures are permitted by state law.
Fact: Board members should be educated in the issues they are debating. Fully educated. To compare a sales tax to the building of schools is comparing apples to oranges. In addition, to insinuate that schools were built solely for future growth is a vast generalization. Many of us on the County Board knew that the growth was unsustainable and dangerous, and we voted against residential housing developments.
Fact: For the past 10 years, the county has had to transfer large sums of money from the public safety sales tax to the general fund. This transfer is needed to meet shortfalls in the budget. I beg you to use common sense. How does a County Board pass an annual budget that has consistently come in short on revenue? Were the budgets presented a false front with the intention to later claim a shortage and raid the public safety sales tax? Either the budgeting process is broken or this is being done intentionally. You or I could not survive on a budget that overprojects our income, especially if we overprojected our income for a decade.
Let me ask a question to the voting public: Why has this become such a debated issue? Why is it not feasible to present the continuation of the public safety sales tax to the voting public and let us decide whether to continue its implementation or discontinue its use?

The answer to that is quite simple: A general fear and lack of trust in the public. Your county government has come to rely on the tax as a revenue stream to fund other departments. Your county government does not trust the voting public to make the decision they want.

Fear that you will vote to discontinue the tax. The county government fears that a vote to eliminate the tax will force tough economic decisions for departments run by political comrades, or board members will have ignore the voting public and force the continuation of the tax. It is far easier to deny us the right to choose the future of the tax than to risk political suicide.
I would support the continuation of the tax. It is not causing me a financial hardship, and the benefits far outweigh the consequences of its removal. The right thing to do would be to present the case to the citizens and let them decide.
Taking away the right of the voting public to make this decision is abhorrent. Fellow residents, do not ask whether a past board should bind a future board in this taxation; ask your County Board members what they are afraid of by asking you to vote on the future of this taxation. After all, a vote by the residents would lay the issue to rest.
Terri Glass is a former member of the Boone County Board.

My View: Boone County Board does not trust the voting public - Opinion - Rockford Register Star - Rockford, IL

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