Same Gamble: Our Schools Now Proposition 1 And The Mega Millions Lottery

Tomorrow we vote on Questions 1 promote by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce’s front group “Our Schools Now”. The initiative will raise the fuel tax which will ripple through the economy (e.g. fuel costs impact the cost of food at the grocery store).

Besides being a bad idea to begin with, especially with the fiscal shell game the Chamber and their political pals plan to use, take a read of this article:

The Mega Millions jackpot (and why you are not being told the truth)

In the middle of the 20th century, when lotteries first started in the U.S., they were sold to states as a way to benefit the American public by providing additional funding for education.

This means that as the jackpots get bigger and people spend more money on lotteries – $223 per year by the average American, in fact – there should be more money in state budgets to spend on education.

But that isn’t happening.

Most state legislatures haven’t been using the lottery money for additional education funding. Instead, they’re using it to fund the basic education budget, and using the money that would normally fund education on other things altogether. As a result, public schools rarely get a budget boost.

With the Chamber’s involvement, I would expect the same here but rather than using lottery money for their shell game, they’ll use the gas tax to fund their other pet projects.

Really, it will be a double shell game: The tax is already a shell game as they use the gas tax money to fund other stuff so they free up money for education but I’m counting on them eventually turning around and using the freed up money for their pet projects instead of education.

Again, please look at my prior post on Question 1 and the prior political game with education money lead to this situation. Don’t fall for the shell game. Like the lottery, it’s a losing gamble but worse – this time you’re gambling with someone else’s money under government force.

Finally, an acquaintance passed an email on to me that also hits the issue:

Please see the attached link of the legislature when they were in the process of passing the “non-binding questions 1” that is on the ballot.

It shows how many of the legislators hold us, the tax paying voters.

http://utahlegislature.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=22914&meta_id=846895

Please consider how wise it would be to vote for a lifelong gas tax that cannot go directly to schools, it must be gerrymandered to go to education. Future legislatures cannot be held to switch funds around and every legislator I have talked to say it will only be for 1 or 2 years, but we will pay the tax increase for our lifetimes.

Please use wisdom in voting as we all have to live with the consequences.

The same advice should be applied regarding Proposition 3 (Obamacare-lite Medicaid expansion). Proposition 4 should also be opposed (I have no interest in unelected bureaucrats drawing up/manipulating election lines, it’s ripe for corruption; people doing this should be directly responsible to voters).

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Growing Big Government And The Welfare State, Utah Edition: Ballot Question 1 and 3

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce loves pushing government intervention and tax schemes, especially if they can benefit by pushing their costs and taxes onto you. This continues.

The chamber started a front group to push the “Our Schools Now” initiative which will raise gas taxes a whopping 18%. The chamber keeps using some tiny increase but it’s woefully deceptive ‘math’ (ironic given this is purportedly for education). Besides the bunk claim, the initiative will essentially muddy the waters on transportation funding as heretofore, the gas tax was reserved for transportation. Basically it will be placing the camel’s nose in the tent.

Worst of all, it will impact family budgets. Unlike a sales or income tax, this is a regressive tax. Families need fuel to get to work, take kids to school, and run basic errands. This will hit mid-to-low income families disproportionately to higher income levels.

Not to mention, this will put a drag on small businesses and the local economy as a whole (the Salt Lake Chamber represents big business, political elite interests, not mom & pops). There’s a reason high fuel/energy costs are always a concern and why people scream when gas pump bills jump – now they want you to give them carte blanche to jump prices.

Finally, as the Libertas Institute points out (read the report), current education funding issues are a consequence of Lane Beatty and his economic elites’ policies foisted on us in the late 90s. There are far better solutions to this than harming families and the Utah economy. Ironically, Lane Beattie is sponsoring the OurSchoolsNow charge for this tax increase…the same guy and group who messed things up totally has the fix now. Sure he does.

On to the next part of the shifting Utah to a welfare state: Medicaid expansion.

Do we really want Obamacare-lite at a local level that caused all sorts of problems in other localities that have expanded Medicaid? The expansion will increase taxes and will cost money resulting in additional raised taxes as cost overruns are realized and just create more drag on family budgets along with an expanded government role in personal health issues. No thanks, I’ll take care of that myself.

Other states that expanded Medicaid have seen cost overruns among other budgeting issues and have found worse health outcomes. Again, Libertas has a good write-up on this worth reading: Common Sense Healthcare Solutions Need More Than Band-Aids.

This should be an absolute nonstarter but people often have trouble turning down “free” government cheese, especially if they aren’t informed. Plus, I understand the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce supports this too but don’t have time to confirm/link to such (I recall they have in the past as it pushes business healthcare costs onto taxpayers).

As the adage goes (for both ballot initiatives):

Government: If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.

Primary Election Issue: Yes, The 2018 Utah Legislature Raised Taxes On Middle Class Families

If you haven’t noticed yet, take a look at your recent paycheck. If you have a family and have a middle class income, you may notice that your take home pay went down. But how can this be? We were told the legislature (slightly) lowered the income tax rate from 5.00% to 4.95%. Yes, but they also knowingly did nothing about the removal of personal deductions. The Trib article,“Utahns with large families could be paying a lot more in state taxes next year”, and it’s associated impact table (be sure to look at it!) sum it up:

The Utah Legislature passed a 0.05 percent income tax cut this year but took no action on changes in federal tax law that eliminated personal deductions. The decision means most Utah taxpayers will pay more in state tax in 2019 even though their overall tax bills will be lower because of the federal cuts.

Legislators and he Governor were well aware of the need to address the changes and certainly better not claim ignorance:

For example, an $80,000-a-year family of seven with one disabled child might currently itemize deductions equal to about 20 percent of income and end up with a state tax bill of $2,200. Next year, that family will do better claiming the standard deduction. But they will lose $17,000 in other deductions, and their tax bill could jump by $1,000, or 45 percent.

Lawmakers knew all this back in January, when the state Tax Commission reported a potential $80 million windfall for the state thanks to federal tax changes and outlined the “average Joe” impacts. The cost of the income tax cut the Legislature eventually approved was about $55 million — an amount more than offset by that windfall.

But for about the same cost, lawmakers could have taken action to preserve the state personal exemption and pass along those savings to taxpayers — something that neighboring Idaho did this year by creating a state child tax credit.

House Bill 385 was such a bill. Introduced by first-termer Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber City, it didn’t even get out of committee, a victim of other priorities.

Yes, they had “other priorities”…like helping political cronies such as UTA with millions for a name change. Maybe another priority was creating a bridgehead for an education ‘head tax’ on children but they didn’t have the guts to debate it in the open. Instead, they chose to sneak one through on taxpayers and Governor Herbert went along with it.

Since it’s primary season and an election year, this issue would be a good one to bring up to incumbent state legislators (such as Ray Ward in South Davis County) and opposing candidates.

Select 2014 South Davis Candidates And Issues

This is not a comprehensive list – just a few select candidates issues.  Here’s my opinion in a very rushed post, for what it’s worth.
RAP Tax – See my post entitled “Heed Bastiat: Bountiful RAP Tax (2014)” for details.  A partial summation from the post:

I guess all I can say is that I have a lot of hobbies and interests I enjoy participating in.  I take the time and money to pay for those and don’t demand that my wealthy neighbor, the widow on a fixed income, or a struggling young family pay for or subsidize my fun.  I am fortunate and grateful that I get to voluntarily donate and assist others.  I would just ask that the same courtesy be granted to me and to those least able to pay.

Board of Education
I’m going with Laura Belnap.  While I don’t see eye-to-eye with her on everything, she’s much more open to parental input and involvement than her opponent.  She is responsive and willing to engage, something I hope (and expect) that she’ll carry on into office. Belnap also has previous education experience and served on other boards. Finally, she appears to be independent (which give citizens a better voice) rather than being propped up by entrenched political interests.

Commission Seat B
I’m going to go with Ryan Macfarlane. Jim Smith is way too tied in with the Chamber of Commerce and I simply have trouble believing he’ll keep citizen interests as the top priority.  Various Chambers of Commerce (particularly the National and Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce) have been bastions of promoting and lobbying for corporate welfare and cronyism.  Their reps tend to just toe the line and I’m not interested in this.  Udy, on the other hand, will tend to far the other way with well-intentioned projects that have the tendency to raise taxes and burdens on residents (although her focus on transparency is worth giving her a second look).  I believe, Macfarlane will hold spending down and keep a sharp eye out for how appropriate current and future programs will be.

Constitutional Amendment A
I’m going to oppose this.  After the IRS was used to target tea party and conservative groups, I think it is best to keep the split on the commission and prevent a single political affiliation from dominating the commission seats.  I don’t really care for arbitrary qualifications (like party affiliation) but make an exception in this instance.  Yeah, the vast majority who are placed in the position will be well-qualified and serve honorably but it just takes once to really muck things up (especially if you can get away with it with media complicity ala Obama IRS…imagine if this were Bush or Nixon!).  An recent experience, I say we keep the current check/balance.

Constitutional Amendment C
Opposed but primarily because I don’t see the need.  It seems that the AG’s office can fulfill the requests.  The voter’s guide opponents also make a good point that having each agency head with a personal counsel could allow undue influence on them rather than having a more disinterested assigned attorney from the AG’s office.  I’m open to feedback on this one – feel free to comment with reasons why this should be supported.

Tax Stewardship: Bountiful City Finds Way To Quintuple Pet Project Costs

This is a follow-up to my previous post on the city’s pet project (please read it for background). At that time, I noted that the city had managed to take a $1.5 million project (half of which was supposed to be paid by private donations) and managed to inflate it to $7.2 million.

The city’s efforts continue. The project is now up to $9.5-10.5 million for the new city hall alone:

Bountiful resident Dean Collinwood, along with more than 100 other residents, have requested that the city council halt construction plans for the new building, which is projected to cost the city between $9.5 and $10.5 million dollars.

Since this new figure is only for the City Hall portion,  adding in the $2.4 mil for the art center/museum brings us to $11.9- $12.9 million.  When they started to look at remodeling the art center/museum, we were looking at $750,000 (half of $1.5 mil.), then we came to $2.4 mil. After that, using secret ninja RDA gimmicks, the city wanted $7.2 mil to include a new (unnecessary) city hall and a loss of revenue for schools. Here is the breakdown of the cost overrun depending which of the initial art center estimates you want to use (I’ll use the “low” $11.9 mil. estimate) — SEE UPDATE 2!–:

  • $750,000 to $11.9 million = 1,587% increase
  • $1.5 mil to $11.9 million = 793% increase
  • $2.4 mil to $11.9 million = 496% increase

Mr. Collinwood has a letter to the editor encouraging citizen action along with who to contact.  He may have ulterior motives in doing so, however.  It turns out that he chairs the Bountiful Historical Commission which pushed for what initiated this debacle in the first place.  I wonder if he’s worried that the major cost overruns may end up downsizing the art center/museum or outright terminate it.  He may be afraid of losing his pet project.

If his motives are singular to stopping a massive waste of citizens’ money without regard to the outcome of museum, I wish Mr. Collinwood the best and will do my part but I’ve dealt with this stuff long enough not to hold much hope. Citizens are complacent and like ‘local Santa’ giving them stuff. They fail to make the link that the ‘freebies’ are paid with someone else’s money (including art centers and museums). They haven’t internalized the limited, core functions of government they pay lip service to.  Please prove me wrong.

UPDATE: I made major edits to this post after finding out that the $2.4 mil. art/museum project was separate from the quoted $9.5 mil. and after noticing that Mr. Collinwood’s motives may not be entirely altruistic.

UPDATE 2: Per the latest Bountiful City Council agenda, the cost of city hall will be $9.97 Mil.   Here is the cost increase (overrun) breakdown based on this number (9.97+2.4=12.37):

  • $750,000 to $12.37 million = 1,649% increase
  • $1.5 mil to $12.37 million = 825% increase
  • $2.4 mil to $12.37 million = 515% increase

Fail: Market Reality VS Common Core

Currently, I have children in a charter school as well as a traditional school.  I have been very happy with the math program and flexibility/fluidity offered in the charter school with various subjects.  The traditional school has been a reasonably good fit for my other child with the exception of the Common Core portion.

This whole year, despite still getting a good grade, my son has been struggling with math, has not gained a real understanding of key concepts, and we’ve been frustrated with the program ourselves. We couldn’t figure out why things were so unnecessarily difficult and, just this week, we found out the school has implemented the Common Core math program. Since then, I have talked to other parents in the neighborhood  (and teachers) and heard the exact same concerns from them.

The program jumps from one concept to another unrelated concept, lacks foundation building, lacks review of the concepts they completed (they don’t see what they just learned a few weeks ago). It is the worst math learning program I’ve ever seen. I’ve had to teach my son the “right” way to do some of the problems because the way he was taught to do them was overly complex and turned simple things into a convoluted mess to get the same answer. The resulting lack of foundation knowledge to apply these critical math concepts has lead my wife and I to get some math books for him to go through this summer to actually gain a foundation and understand the concepts.

During the parent-teacher conferences, his teacher also expressed (politely, of course) frustrations with the lack of review and problem solving concept issues and is doing her best to incorporate reviews whenever she can. Her concerns about retention and application extend to the whole class.

After finding out that Common Core math was being used, I have begun looking into it more and have some serious concerns about Common Core and what it means for my children (and all children in the public education system); particularly, related to preparing realizing the full potential of current students when they enter the labor force.

The strength of the charter school and the ability to choose educational programs (including traditional schools) to fit the child will be significantly constricted by Common Core.  The program is a top-down approach that effectively dictates what math/reading etc programs will be used and destroys the ability of schools (charter and otherwise) to offer their own unique programs or tailor curriculum to the students they serve.  It destroys the small amount of educational choice we have.  It is clear that one-size-fits-all approaches never truly “fit all” and significant numbers fall through the cracks.  This is also reflected in the marketplace.

Schools are supposed to provide a basis for students to enter and compete in a broadening marketplace with a premium in innovation.  The marketplace has consistently encouraged and delivered customizable solutions to consumers.  Consumers are not interested in on-size-fits all products they must adapt to – the expectation is that products should adapt to the individual.  This can be seen with the thousands of apps, software programs, food choices, brands, electronics, vehicles…virtually every consumer good is pushed to being able to be customized beyond small groups and clear down to the individual.

Common Core is, at it’s essence, a one-size-fits-all program that dictates what and how subjects will be taught.  In that respect, it absolutely fails to acknowledge the market demanding customization.  Besides constricting educational innovation to preclude delivery of the most effective tools to the individual student, Common Core will necessarily result in significant numbers of students falling through the cracks when the boilerplate math/reading/other program does not fit them.  Furthermore, other students, while passing, will not meet their full potential without the ability to find the best fit.

Common Core fails to acknowledge the uniqueness of each child and will be a blow educationally and economically to children.  It has already set back my child who now needs “math home school” this summer in order to regain a foundation.  That is unacceptable.

UPDATE: An excellent personal experience essay from a teacher working on their Educaion Policy PhD.

UPDATE 2: Utah State Senator’s Weiler and Dayton have written on Common Core.  Senator Weiler’s (What’s the deal with “Common Core”?) is detailed and received supportive comments from both sides (Dixie Allen on the State Board of Ed and Christel Swasey) – I highly recommend reading his post. Senator Dayton’s (Thoughts on NCLB & the Common Core) is brief but discusses the funding carrot link related to No Child Left Behind, Race To The Top and Common Core.

New Indoctrination: “Free” School Breakfast

School started a few weeks ago and I got a surprise.  I was informed that the first 10 minutes of school is now set aside for a mandatory free breakfast for all students.  It doesn’t matter if they want it or not nor does income level factor in.  Everyone is given their “free government cheese”.

Evidently, parents simply can’t be trusted to feed their own children.  Before anyone retorts about low income parents troubles, don’t bother.  This is not means tested at all.  Furthermore, low income families qualify for food stamps and have the food at home to provide breakfast (and yes I do know people on food stamps).  Am I to understand they are refusing to provide any food to their children?!  C’mon.

What is more upsetting, however, is the destructive nature of this program.  It tells kids that they and their parents are not responsible for their own most basic of needs.  No, no, that too is the responsiblity of government and your neighbors.  It intimates that you and your parents are incapable of taking care of you.  Everyone else should be expected to provide for you with no effort of your own because you can’t.    It strikes the to the core of individual responsibility and self-esteem.  It fully trades all that in for entitlement and dependancy.

Under this program, children, starting in kindergarten, are ingrained with the mentality that government is their sole provider.

Obviously, my family will be discussing the issue at home.  We’ll certainly discuss the responsibility to provide for ourselves and not burden our neighbors.  We’ll also be emphasizing that somebody paid for that breakfast (it is NOT free!) and the appropriateness of taking another’s money without their permission.  Furthermore, breakfast will be served (and eaten) at home.

I hope that the school breakfasts will be left, uneaten, on the desk each morning and the 10 minutes spent on actual school activities.