Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Spring Hill Revisited: No Quarrels About Calling Taxes "Fees" This Time

In my last post on the utopian Spring Hill community beatifically rising in the minds of TTR minions on the right, I referred to some regulatory fees exacted on developers and private businesses that were expected to make up the shortfall when property taxes are cut to zero.

The whole issue of "fees" vs. "taxes" stirred up the partisan dust in a recent debate over the Council's wheel tax measure. Regular readers of Pith in the Wind (the Nashville Scene's blog) might remember that, after writer Bruce Barry recently articulated the difference between taxes and fees, his clarification of the "wheel tax" was excoriated by rightwing bloggers with comments like this:
The average Joe understands that this is a "wheel tax," and once they are told that state law says wheel taxes must be passed by a 2/3rds majority, are right to wonder why this one is considered "passed" even though it didn't get a 2/3rds vote. Then they are told that it's because it's a "fee" not a tax - and what they realize is that their government, which is supposed to work for the people, is using euphemisms to get around following what seems to be a pretty clear law. It may be in the end that Metro legally passed this "fee" increase based on various legal precedents, but it still stinks and ruins the credibility of the Council.
Even the regular Tennessee Tax Revolt talking head weighed in:
Over and above the wheel tax issue, this whole discussion highlights what I believe to be a major problem with government in general: mind bending and obfuscating complexity.
It seems no less "mind bending and obfuscating" on TTR's part to make it seem like no taxes are levied in Spring Hill, even though state revenues and locally levied fees instead of property taxes will be funding services there. Ignoring Spring Hill's fees is a form of treating those fees euphemistically, according to the "wheel tax" critics' own definitions of "euphemistic."

Above all, the fact that TTR is now playing Spring Hill up as an idyllic, tax-free success story is disingenuous after their supporters have challenged distinctions between taxes and fees. To paraphrase their own political parlance: their omission "stinks and ruins their own credibility."

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