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Aug. 19, 2022

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Press Talk: Take a peek at your tax bill

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I love me some taxes as much as the next guy, but …

Did you ever notice there’s almost always a “but” when you’re talking about taxes? Sort of like talking about King James being the greatest ever, but if you ever saw Michael Jordan play … But I digress.

We all understand taxes are necessary. That’s why we have them. And that’s why — for the most part — we accept them. But just like Chicago deep-dish pizza, there is only so much we can stomach. Exactly how much that is, however, is very difficult to determine. And that’s because when you’re talking taxes, the reasons why we pay what we pay and what the heck we are paying for, is complicated.

And that’s exactly how most of our politicians want it. Complicated.

Most readers of this column think I’m a liberal. And I’m good with that. But the truth is I’m neither a liberal nor a conservative. I believe, for example, that taxes have gone far too deep down the rabbit hole and we can’t find a way back out to reasonableness. And that, my friends, is very un-liberal, if indeed that is a word.

• • •

A few weeks back the county sent us our property tax bills. Did you look at yours? Of course you did. And the odds are you shrugged and paid it. If you go online and punch in your address, the county assessor’s website gives you all kinds of good info. And for that we all should be grateful. But unless I missed it, one of the things it doesn’t give you is percentages. Like the percentage your bill went up from last year.

So I did the math myself — always a dangerous proposition for a journalist — and it showed an 11 percent increase.

Oh my!

Now a reasonably bright person might argue, why? Well, it’s complicated. Did I already make that point? Sorry.

So who exactly is to blame? In my view there are two main reasons for this.

• First, blame us. And I’m part of that “us.” Remember that half-billion-dollar school construction bond not too long ago? Sounds crazy, right? But we approved it. (Full disclosure, I voted for it too.) If you want to play around with your tax bill a little more, check out how much of your money goes to something school-related. And don’t forget that state Supreme Court ruling dealing with school funding. That money will come from someone. Guess who?

• Second, think for a minute about the role of government. Well, it spends money. Now most politicians will tell you their role is to provide services to those who need them. And that’s true. But at its core, government spends money. And politicians have managed to figure out more and more ways to spend more and more of it.

Don’t believe me? Do the research. See what the government was spending money on 50 or 60 years ago. And compare that to what we spend money on now. Government can almost always find a need out there that has to be funded. That’s what they do.

Of course your property taxes are only pieces of the tax puzzle. You’ve got income taxes and sales taxes and gas taxes and hotel taxes and service taxes, shipping and handling fees — oh wait, scratch that last one. I think you get the picture.

I really don’t see a good ending to this picture show. Rotten Tomatoes would not give it a good score. I suspect, eventually, the goose is going to get cooked and that will be that. On my end, I’m not part of the solution. I’ll keep voting yes and hope someone else takes the lead.

It’s too complicated for me.

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