Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Media Starting to Stand Up to Cunningham and TTR

Kudos go to the the Tennessean for finally standing up to Ben Cunningham's urban myth and his comparisons of taxpayers to rats leaving a sinking ship. They mention some of the other reasons for outmigration that I cited yesterday. They also raise the question of the selective application of the myth to property taxes rather than to regressive and conservative-preferred sales taxes:

[I]f property taxes drive people from place to place, shouldn't the same logic hold true for other taxes, such as those on goods and services, [MTSU researcher David] Penn wonders.
"If you look at the sales tax rate, the sales tax rate one would pay in Nashville is actually lower than Murfreesboro — a little, not a lot — but it's lower," Penn said. In Murfreesboro the combined state and local sales tax rate is 9.75 cents on the dollar, as opposed to 9.25 cents in Nashville.
"If you look just at the sales tax rate and argue that that's the most important thing, then from that you would expect to see people moving from Murfreesboro to Davidson, and that's not happening," Penn said.
In contrast to the Tennessean, this morning's Nashville City Paper merely pits Cunningham against Metro's legal opinions. No questioning the veracity of Cunningham's urban myth there. TTR gets a free pass in the NCP.

Both stories provide anecdotal individual interview responses from TTR supporters who want less urban services. They can be easily cancelled out by anecdotes from city guys like me: I want my urban services and I want them run efficiently. I understand that takes revenue and constant oversight by voters. I'm not moving and I don't want TTR, suburbanites, or voters pissed off at the Titans deal trying to strip away the first-responder, public works, and police security services that I am entitled to as an urban taxpayer. If they don't like their services, they can go to Bucksnort.


  1. Whenever the issue of a state income tax has been raised, one of the arguments has been that our sales tax which is higher than the surrounding border states is bad for business because it drives people across state lines. So is David Penn now telling us this isnt true?

  2. He's talking about why people move, not where they shop. I can't remember if a definitive study has been done of border-states' tax rates and shopping patterns on our own border counties or not. But my whole life, I have heard about people in Union City who bought groceries in South Fulton, folks from Clarksville who drove to Ft. Campbell, folks from Memphis driving to North Mississippi, etc. Research would be nice.

    Either way, a high sales tax (especially with a high tax on food and clothing) hits the poor particularly hard.

  3. Increased property taxes also hit the poor and elderly (on fixed incomes) particularly hard.

    Mikes contention that limiting tax increases would necessarily affect first responders, police, etc. isnt necessarily true and is in fact eerily similiar to the school boards constant scare tactic (any reduction in the budget request means fewer teachers). Bredesen found ways to manage the state budget after the income tax was defeated by prioritizing needs against the available funds. Metro can do the same. And if additional tax revenues are needed, and properly justified, dont you think the citizenry would approve them in a referendum?

  4. "Scare tactics," huh? You mean scare tactics like constantly warning that the poor and elderly would be hit hard by property taxes? Or screaming that donut communities are simply sucking the life of Davidson County because of property taxes?

    It is simple math: if revenues do not keep up with the double whammy of Metro growth (and it is growing) and inflation (and probably the third whammy: state-shared incentives to exurban communities like Spring Hill or to rural schools), then some services somewhere will have to be cut.

  5. I just posted an item above on the deteriorating conditions of some parts of Bicentennial Mall. Last year I was writing about trash that never got picked up on state property adjacent to the Mall.

    As for "Bredesen finding ways to manage the state budget," my guess is that one of those ways was to cut services to maintenance of some of our state parks. Why else would we see no efforts being made to save dying trees and trash laying on state property for weeks?

    You cut revenues; the government cuts services. If that scenerio scares people, it should. "Finding a way to manage" is just another term for "settling for less than we should."

  6. Who decides what is "less than we should"? You?

    Inevitably priorities are set by someone developing a budget. If picking up the trash and maintaining the landscape of Bicentennial Mall is more important than something else, then it should be funded. But the supply of money will always be limited, regardless of the method of taxation (sales, income, property).

    I object when the threat of reduced spending is automatically met with a chorus of "we'll have to cut first responders, teachers, little puppies, whatever". It is a scare tactic and nothing less, because it is intended to frighten people into supporting a tax increase. If instead someone would say "we might have to cut first responders, teachers, or secretaries, administrative personnel, inefficient programs, etc." at least they would be honest.

  7. btw, does your salary automatically increase every year to keep up with inflation, increased fuel and utility costs, increased family spending, and higher taxes? or do you find ways to adjust your spending to live on your salary?

  8. I only have so much time to waste debating anonymous commenters; particularly those who hypocritically accuse others of scare tactics even as they are scaring people about taxes and outmigration.

  9. I've said nothing to scare people about taxes or outmigration. I only think there should be an honest discussion on the merits of increases without the emotional pull of losing police officers, teachers, etc.. Simply state the facts - that an increase will pay for something or that failing to increase may result in cuts - and see what the voters do.