Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sales Tax Referendum Post Mortem

Now that the referendum is past, I have to pronounce a pox on both the pro-sales-tax house and the anti-sales-tax house. I long ago voiced opposition to the Mayor's sales tax increase to pay for education, and I did so not because I support cutting education in general.

In fact, I think that the most vocal critics of raising revenues to enhance our public schools do not care about public education and would just as soon watch it wither on the vine. That's despicable enough, but to capriciously concoct and spread the urban myth that large numbers of people leave Nashville whenever we spend more on behalf of our public school students is deplorable itself. As these spinmeisters break out today proclaiming victory for "Nashville's citizens," I want to be clear that this Nashvillian who opposed the sales tax feels no sense of victory.

But the pro-sales tax crowd simply had it wrong in my opinion. One should not blindly advocate raising any revenues for schools at any cost, especially when most of the cost would be borne by low to moderate income residents. I don't understand those progressive voters who become so single-minded in their focus on education that they would actually take from the most vulnerable to give to the most vulnerable. I understand that many are feeling dejected today because of the setback, but I want to be clear that this Nashvillian who supports public education feels no sense of defeat.

There are better ways to raise equitable revenues for education. There will be increasing opportunities in the future for us to find them. We did not need to lock ourselves into a regressive sales tax even if the goals were laudable. The ends don't justify the means. And we do not need to listen to the crowing by the anti-tax crowd for whom slashing public education funding is a veritable, if not obsessed daily devotion.

At the end of the day yesterday, I could live with the knowledge that I have met taxes I don't like. This sales tax was one of those.

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