“Your pennies at work.” What a great slogan. It makes it sound as if you, the individual taxpayer, spent only a few cents, and in return get to enjoy parks, schools, courthouses, roads or other wonderful SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) projects.
Over the years, politicians have been very effective in selling the voting public on the idea of taxing themselves. The usual tactic is to convince the electorate that if they fail to impose a penny sales tax, their property taxes will skyrocket.
Politicians promise that the burden of the self-imposed taxation will be borne by hapless visitors to the area who will unwittingly build your parks and schools by buying cheeseburgers at the local drive-thru.
They usually fail to point out the fact that every time YOU buy a cheeseburger at the drive-thru, you too will be taxed. That is not a problem though because, after all, we’re just talking about a few pennies, right?
Ben Franklin once said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” A penny may not seem like much, but put a bunch of them together and, before you know it, you’re talking about real money.
Take for instance the penny sales tax that Barrow voters will likely be asked to approve in March of next year. That SPLOST is projected to bring as much as $50 million worth of pennies into county coffers. Sure, some of that money may be paid by visitors to the area, but most will be paid by county residents.
The SPLOST will replace the current SPLOST which is about to expire. If the SPLOST is allowed to expire, your costs for purchases will go down. Granted, local leaders could then opt to increase your property taxes but they plan to do that anyway even with a SPLOST in place.
Sixteen months after Barrow voters decide whether or not to continue taxing themselves, voters statewide will be asked to impose another penny sales tax on every purchase. This transportation SPLOST – or TSPLOST – is being touted as the answer to the state’s transportation woes. That same $1 value menu cheeseburger purchase which drops a penny in Barrow coffers will drop another penny in the state coffers. The catch with the TSPLOST is that instead of being a five-year tax, the TSPLOST will remain in place for ten years. For ten years, whether or not a road every gets paved in your area or a pot hole ever gets filled on your street, you will pay a penny for transportation on every dollar you spend. Statewide, billions of dollars will be taken out of the pockets of the taxpayers and put into the hands of the government.
Gov. Sonny Perdue said the 2012 TSPLOST statewide referendum is “the ultimate democratic referendum on investing in transportation.” He is absolutely right. Voters who care enough to head to the polls in the July 2012 will get to decide for everyone else how much the sales tax will be for the next ten years.
A penny tax by itself may not sound like much, but it is important to remember that every penny you give to the government is one less penny you have to spend on your family, your business, your retirement, your children’s college education – you name it. With a penny on every dollar going to SPLOST, a penny going to ESPLOST and potentially a penny going to TSPLOST – in addition to other state and local sales taxes - pretty soon you are going to have a lot less pennies.
“Your pennies at work” is a great slogan, but your pennies need to be working for you. Private individuals can spend money far more effectively than the government can. Will you vote to tax yourself even more or will you demand the government operate more efficiently? The choice is yours.
Kristi Reed is a reporter for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.