Just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for the great conversation on this topic. I'm always happy to answer questions, and will be monitoring this thread for another couple of days.
After that, you can reach me at the blog, which is linked above.
@Merlin - Thanks for the kind words.
@CEBorst - My bio explicitly states my partisan leanings.
That said, the value of the sales tax cut has been widely reported and confirmed. The value of other tax cuts (inheritance, etc.) can be found in the revenue collections numbers from the state budget, followed by an email to your friendly neighborhood state Revenue stats guy. They got me the number of folks that filed returns in about 24 hours.
Not too shabby for the gubament.
The issue is less about how much and more about what priorities are sought.
Tax policy impacts behavior in a lot of ways. Current tax policy (which has largely been in place since the 70's) is believed to impact "Job creation" positively. The idea goes, more capital to "owners" means more investment and more jobs. This, however, has not been demonstrated "in fact".
What we've actually seen is a concentration of wealth and the stagnation of wages over the past 30 years. This has to do with a tax policy that puts emphasis on "savings" rather than investment in new methods and material.
At the same time we have a workforce that is both aging generally and expanding due to baby-boomers staying in the workforce longer. This is a result of wage stagnation and losses in savings thanks to the "Bubblenomics" of the past 25+ years. Supply and demand being king, there's a greater supply of workers than of jobs, which further depresses wages.
On the state level, since we have a two-legged stool (no income tax), we're left with the most regressive tax, sales, as our primary revenue stream (54% of revenue). This further hurts people with lower incomes as a higher percentage of their purchasing power is consumed by our highest in the nation sales tax.
At the same time, we've chosen as a tax policy to reduce taxes on those who earn passive income through inheritance or investment. This "carrot" has no accompanying "stick" to drive job creation, higher wages, or business expansion.
So, as a general statement, rather than reinvest, increase wages, or create more jobs, these tax savings have translated into personal savings rather than real "growth".
Obviously, federal tax policy drives more of this than state policy. However, the state could, if it so chose, tailor tax policy to reward real job growth, higher wages and business expansion.
Instead, we use a $3.65 tax cut per person as a political ploy to say "we cut taxes for everyone" in the upcoming 2014 election cycle. A tax cut that the vast majority of folks will never see.
This further obscures the huge tax cuts received by the wealthy (through inheritance and Hall tax cuts) at the expense of programs that everyone likes such as "Meals on Wheels" which got $2.3m cut out of its budget, even though the state has a projected $100m surplus for 2013-14.
CEBorst - Read again, 2.6m are near or below poverty (133% or less, ) and 2.2m are one financial disaster away (layoff, medical emergency etc., calculated at 134% to 200% of poverty).
All are based on average household size and earnings as reported by the Census Bureau.
The issue is, all of these people contribute to our largest source of revenue...sales tax which makes up 54% of all state revenue, but their tax cut, which Republicans say is an economic driver, makes up only $3.65 or real savings per year, per person.
By contrast, the approximately 900 people a year who have historically paid inheritance taxes annually will receive an average $250,000 tax savings as the inheritance tax reaches its sunset in 2016.
This also doesn't account for the tax cut those paying the Hall tax have received (taxes on investment income over a certain threshold).
The issue isn't that the 1.7m "well to do" are "subsidizing" the other 4.8m, but that the 4.8m are subsidizing tax cuts for the 1.7m who garner more economic benefit, and need it least.
Tennessee has the highest combined sales tax rate in the nation, which places more burden on poor and middle income families.
A couple of issues with Com. Taylor's premise:
1st - State law prohibits the splitting of precincts in County Commission and State Senate Districts. Having just 50 precincts would most likely make it impossible to comply with state law.
2nd - State law prohibits precincts larger than 5000 registered voters. (TCA §§ 2-3-103) The fewest number of precincts allowable based on current active and inactive registration would be about 125 (also taking into account district rules).
3rd - The Shelby County Election Commission stated in mid 2011 a desire to reduce the number of precincts from 236 to 150-180. I noted the document back in a June 12th post. I guess Com. Taylor isn't a reader of my blog. http://www.shelbycountytn.gov/DocumentView…
4th - For any precinct consolidation to occur the County Commission was required to pass a redistricting plan so such consolidation could conform with state law. It took a Chancery Judge to make that decision for them. The delay in a redistricting plan is the reason cited for the delay in updating the State and Federal districts in the voter file, which led to the problems Joe Weinberg and I exposed the 2nd week of early voting. NOTE: I think everyone acknowledges waiting too long was a mistake on the part of the Election Commission.
5th - Precinct consolidation is no more a magic bullet for low electoral participation numbers than any of the other boondoggles that have been sold to the public under the guise of "Economic Development", etc. have addressed those problems. At their June 13th meeting the Election Commission consolidated 17 precincts, and aside from the ones that had municipal schools elections, I doubt any great increase in participation was observed. We'll see after the results are certified.
In order to increase turnout several things must begin to occur:
A. The people must feel their elected officials are actually working to address the challenges they face rather than spending hours on issues that have absolutely no relevance to their lives. The low participation numbers are a reflection of a government that has failed to address these issues. Why would people use their most precious resource...time, to vote if they don't think their vote will improve the conditions impacting their life?
B. Candidates and elected officials must work harder to engage people other than the usual suspects (consistent voters) to give them a reason to believe they actually care about them, understand their circumstances, and are willing to explore policies that help them succeed.
C. The Election Commission must work to have a more visible and robust communication strategy with the public. Most people who don't obsessively follow local elections do not understand many of the rules, or know what's coming up. They have lives to lead and kids to feed. By reaching out and informing the public more, more people will participate because they understand the rules and what's ahead.
Finally, due to the number of problems we've had with elections in Shelby County dating back decades, there is a belief that fair elections cannot be held here. Repairing this belief requires a level of transparency, accountability, and stewardship that no board or commission in this County has ever aspired to. The point here is not to besmirch the current crop of election commissioners, but to point out the critical role they can play in restoring the public's faith in the process.
It will take time, and much more than words to restore people's faith in the process. Developing and promoting a plan that seeks to reach out beyond the silo of the politicos in this town is the first step to restoring that faith. Precinct consolidation alone is a nothing more than a magic bean that promises but won't deliver results.
About time to shave the head and stop pretending I'm not balding.
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