BOLO: Bountiful City’s 2020 Power and Landfill Fund Transfer (Hiddent Taxes) And Warning To Watch For Increases

It’s time for my annual May post about Bountiful City City Council and Mayor continuing to manipulate power rates to over charge citizens/power users so they can claim we have low taxes and hide the true cost of local government. Last year, the city raided $2.5 million from the power fund into the general fund. This year they’ve increased the transfer $250,000 for a total of $2.75 million likely aided by the 67% customer charge increase and new street light fee over the last couple of years.

This post likely also launches an ongoing annual post documenting the Bountiful City Council and Mayor employing the same tactic related to your garbage bill to cloak recycling costs. This year, they will increase the transfer from the landfill budget to the recycling fund by about 6% to $127,595 (up from $120,000). This transfer/bailout began last year but they’ve learned well from power fund game and appear to plan to do this in perpetuity (there’s no such thing as a ‘temporary government program’).

With the Chicom virus pandemic wreaking havoc on family budgets and affecting tax revenues, be on the lookout for the city to manipulate power rates, customer fees and/or garbage service fees to cover some of their revenue shortfalls rather than being transparent and going through truth-in-taxation requirements to justify increasing taxes (revenue).

I’ve been tracking this issue for longer than I would like to admit. I have scant time this year so this post is lacking in background/details. For more information/posts on power cost manipulations, click here or the “Bountiful Power” tag and click here or the “Recycling” tag to bring up the plethora of (better detailed) posts on these issues.

UPDATE: I picked a good day to post this apparently. From today’s NY Post (h/t Instapundit): The smart way for post-coronavirus pandemic NYC to save money: Stop recycling

Another Local Example: Why It’s Important To Limit Government To Its Proper Role

I caught this on Fox 13: West Jordan faces $8 million budget shortfall; City employees offered severance to voluntarily resign

I don’t know all of West Jordan’s details but I’m guessing they’ve got a bunch of “quality of life” programs that use the power of government to force taxpayers to pay for hobbies and fun of groups favored by a politician or politician’s pet projects. Projects include recreation centers, arts, theaters, zoos, recycling, etc. etc. etc. Worse yet, governments bond for these projects and become lashed to the debt servicing and Moody’s ratings (kind of like a credit score).

When a budget crunch hits, government doesn’t want to default on it’s loans and politicians hate dumping cutesy projects they can get some press for. So they look for broad cuts and put core governmental functions on the chopping block as well. Actually they usually prefer scream about how police/fire/streets are “threatened” by the decline and we absolutely must ‘restructure’…and raise taxes to save the basic functions (but we absolutely shan’t cut our pet projects!). Thus, the irresponsible ‘nice-to-have’ projects put basic services at risk.

All to appease politicians and some folks who demand that others should be forced to pay for their interests and don’t want to be bothered having to put the effort forth to make it an actual voluntary, community-built effort (you know the stuff that actually builds real community).

We’ll soon see more reports on local and state government having to scramble to deal with the anticipated funding declines. Just keep a weary eye on how willing they are to put up the straw man of ‘saving basic services’ but really quietly saving their perpetually funded skunk farms.

UPDATE: Needless to say, the above most certainly applies to our Federal Government too. We need to slash spending on so many non essential programs and “entitlements”. In the recent pandemic spending bill a bunch went to stuff like the Kennedy Center in NYC and PBS/CPB (which as nothing to do with the pandemic or economic security but it does bail out an place a lot of rich people support). We’re lashing debt on our kids’ backs locally and nationally to subsidize interests/venues frequented by those who can most afford to attend and actually fund themselves! It’s ridiculous.

The biggest gripe I have with Trump is that he stinks at spending and hasn’t pushed back hard enough on the drunken spenders running amok in Congress. It won’t end well. At least he does call them out and is willing to take the swamp head-on but he’s got to do better on their ‘legal plunder’ and we need to stop asking them to legally plunder our neighbors and countrymen!

Sure Glad Citizens Killed The Food Tax Increase

Just a few months ago, the Utah swamp tried to foist a tax increase on citizens geared to benefit corporate cronies through cost socialization and profit privatization. Part of the tax ruse involved increasing the food tax and shifted more of the tax burden away from big business (the donor class) to small business and families.

Fortunately, citizens gathered an overwhelming number of signatures to stop the increase and place it on the ballot. The legislature then quickly repealed the tax gambit in the recently ended session. It should also be noted that Harmon’s Grocery opening their stores for signature gatherers. They were a game changer* in the effort (please stop by their store and pick something up).

We’re in the midst of the SARS CoV 2 (aka COVID19, China Virus, Wuhan Virus…etc. etc.) and people are stocking up on food and good (albeit misdirected by some hysteria fueled by the national media, in particular), having to stay home and seeing individuals and businesses (especially small business) taking financial hits. If it were not for citizens and Harmon’s, not only would families and small business be facing the economic stress from the current situation but it would’ve been amplified by the high tax burden heaped on them with poor tax policy.

Harmon’s Grocery really should be thanked for their help. They really stuck their necks out for the referendum and were even targeted by an upset Governor Herbert. Thanks to them, Associated Food Stores also opened their stores to signature gatherers. Harmon’s was a pivot point and deserves our appreciation (and business).

For a partial list of those involved in the battle on this issue see here: Utah 2019 Tax Referendum: The Winners and Losers

The Utah Swamp Sneers, Calls Citizens “Fringes” For Daring To Oppose Them

LaVarr Webb is one of Utah’s biggest political insiders or, more colloquially, swamp critters. His swamp besties like Gov. Gary Herbert quickly ramrodded a sweeping tax overhaul catering to corporate cronies and jacked up food and gas taxes without bothering to get buy in from citizens. Citizens revolted and have began collecting a signatures for a citizen referendum to veto the legislation and telling them to start over with maybe a modicum of vetting and, you know, respect for common citizens buying into the process and proposals.

This, of course, does not sit well with LaVarr Webb (two Rs, two Bs) because, dangit, he and his buddies know better than the unwashed masses. So the best thing to do is to pen a condescending fit which takes a page out of Hillary’s “deplorables” playbook and calls nonpartisan citizens groups “fringe”. Ironically enough, Lavarr’s own group found that 68% of Utahns oppose their tax reform. That’s some fringe.

See, the gubernatorial candidates and the “fringe” just don’t seem to get that our entrenched elites simply know what is best for us and shouldn’t feel forced to consult with those affected by decisions that are “best for the state”. After all, government and big business are numero uno since citizens are really just a “reservoir of funds” for political elites, they simply ought to know their place and be grateful for their benevolent overlords.

Who knows, LaVarr may just have indigestion that citizen volunteers are running the referendum. If they would just bring in some high priced professional consultants (especially those with repetitive letters in their name) then it could be the ‘spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down’ and remove the “fringe” stench from the initiative.

People are tired of the condescension from on high. We’re tired of unread ‘critical’ bills passed without being read and the only way to ‘know what is in the bill is to pass it’.

We aren’t just “a reservoir” created to provide a stable funding source for government during economic downturns while we suffer. Is government suffering somehow superior to individual suffering during economic hard times? Citizens should cut and sacrifice but, by golly, tax their food so they can’t weasel out of paying for grandiose government programs increasingly geared to socialize costs while privatizing profits for corporate cronies (*cough* Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce *cough*)?

Those issues are why the reform should be vetoed and sent back to the drawing board for transparent debate and measured consideration. Who knows, we may all end up agreeing with much of what was in the current legislation but we have every right to be consulted and respected rather than being lorded over by pseudo-oracles.

If you feel fringey and would like to sign the referendum, you can look at: Utah2019tax.com or the Utah 2019 Tax Referendum Facebook Group.

Utah’s Toxic Mix: Individual Rights Take Back Seat To Politically Connected Organizations

I was recently sent an article from the Church of Jesus Christ regarding some legislation they are supporting. The byline states “The bill preserves religious freedom…” but that is a half truth. The whole article is actually riddled with this distortion in statements like ” All religious persons should be free to live, work or serve their community in ways that are consistent with their faith.” This implies the legislation protects “persons”. It doesn’t. Just like the church-supported 2015 Utah law*, the bill protects organizations not individuals. Churches are protected, members are not. You are left in the cold.

Odder still, the church is pushing more of its functions to individuals and is on a path for further home-centered church activities. This church-supported legislation appears to undermine what they’re doing as families take more religious/church responsibilities yet don’t appear to be granted the same protections granted to religious organizations. As mom-and-pop bakeries, florists, and reception centers can attest, you are a target.

Meanwhile, look at the Utah tax reform fiasco. Here are a couple of articles to get you up to speed:
Questions that legislators were asked to address before voting on tax reform (Note: this links to a homepage and not a specific post, it may move)
Tax Reform Special Legislative Session: Review & Observations

Traditional US order and foundations are being turned on their on their head. Rather than government being the protector of individual rights, individuals are treated as government’s servants (even called a “reservoir of funds” during the tax reform hearings) and government now serves big business/organizations. People are increasingly at the bottom of consideration. Individual freedom is virtually scorned by those in power.

A further manifestation of this are the actions of Utah’s insular elite as they fight to maintain control. That’s not to say the elites are bad people. They do a lot of good but then enact policies that create the problems and undermine others. They are blindsided by angry opposition yet continue to press various schemes on people to socialize costs and selectively privatize the benefits while turning a blind eye to the effects on individuals who pay those costs – they are convinced ‘they know what’s best for the rest’. This ignorance and arrogance becomes “a toxic mix” bad for them and for society.

While I’m not trusting of polls, it is telling that a poll conducted by one of the “Utah oligarch’s” own front organizations found that people ranked aiding business and expanding government intervention schemes dead last in their priorities.

The lack of respect of individual rights, selective protections and focus on favored groups needs to end. It’s bad for all of us.

*Background note: This isn’t the first time the church has exempted itself from laws everyone else is subject to. They also did so with immigration law back in 2005.

Utah Legislative Tax Reform Task Force Thumbs Nose At Citizens, Opts For Corporate Socialism And Gives Delta Airlines Tax Gift

I got this in my email but am linking to the website as it should be read in full: Voters say no to 33% gas tax increase. Tax Task Force says tough—you’re going to pay it.

On November 6, 2018, Utah voters resoundingly said No! when asked if they would support a 10 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax—65% No (689,254 votes), 35% Yes (363,878 votes).  So, what does the Tax Restructuring and Equalization Task Force do? They ignore the vote of the citizens and include a “temporary” 4.85% state sales tax on a gallon of gasoline in their tax reform proposal.

A state sales tax on gasoline would raise the price of a gallon of gas by 9.7 cents—based on the July wholesale price of $2.00 per gallon in the Rocky Mountain Region. The total state sales tax on a gallon of gas will go from 30 cents to 39.7 cents—a 33% tax increase and on January 1,2020 that will increase to 40.8 cents per gallon since the legislature has already built in an automatic increase in the existing per gallon gas tax.

This type of tax is regressive and hits the middle class and low income folks proportionally harder (see the original article for details). This is on top of raising the food tax (also very regressive) and they plan on also taxing shipping/handling charges on every order.  Then there’s this:

Furthermore, in keeping with its penchant for using the tax code to reward Utah’s wealthiest citizens and to help big businesses socialize their costs while privatizing their profits, aviation fuel will continue to be taxed at between 2.5 cents per gallon and 9 cents per gallon. The 2.5 cents per gallon rate on federally certificated air carriers (SLC Airport) has been in place for 18 years but legislators are in no hurry to increase that tax. The estimated value of the aviation tax exemption is in the range of $180 million.

That means Delta Airlines etc. retain a sweat heart deal on taxes as do folks with private aircraft. So we’ll be hiking taxes on everyone else and subsidize corporate giants.  It’s no surprise that the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and their front groups instigated many of these ‘tax reforms’. Really ‘socializing cost while privatizing profits’ is effectively corporate socialism and the Salt Lake Chamber is a avid mentor of this socialism. No wonder taxpayers are now just seen, not as individuals and humans but as a “reservoir of funds” by these guys. Enough already.

I don’t have time to go into any more detail – please click the link at the top of this post and read the whole thing. Full disclosure: the author is my father.

Perverse Incentive Double Dip: Student Loan Forgiveness For Public Employees

I was recently informed about this program: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program.

As a taxpayer, this type of perverse incentive really grates me. It appears that we are getting hit twice. First, taxpayers pay the salary of these employees (which is fair since it’s their labor). However, they get a carve out and have us pay for their remaining student loans. That is not cool at all and they’re hitting the piggybank we’re forced to pay into twice. We’re already paying the salary they can use to pay off those loans and now we’re also forced to absorb the cost of those loans. I don’t know who came up with this program but it stinks.

In contrast, if a private arrangement is made to forgive a loan or donations are gathered, that’s cool, I have no dog in that fight. The difference is a forced versus voluntary action.

I’ll also say the loan forgiveness thing at taxpayer expense is rotten in general (regardless of who benefits). It’s a slap in the face to people who opted to save, work, or serve in the military to pay for college and leave with no debt as well as those who worked and paid off the debt they incurred. I remember several friends in college who worked full time while attending or made military commitments and sacrifices to pay their schooling. Those same folks who labored and bore the cost are now told to involuntarily pay off someone else’s loan. That is just awful and it teaches an irresponsible lesson to future generations.

Finally, this isn’t the first government program the promotes entitlement and dependency. Several years ago I highlighted the destructive and indoctrinating nature of the school breakfast for all. That brings me to an exit question/information request:

The free school breakfast and ‘come to the park to eat lunch for free’ programs (i.e. force your neighbors to pay for your lunch) are bad enough that they are open to everyone, rather than means tested. But even if means tested, they make no sense. Wouldn’t the same folks who would qualify also qualify for food stamps? If so, you would expect that they should have their SNAP benefit reduced by a comparable amount, right? Having both programs overlap, besides being wasteful, sure makes it sound like those receiving food stamps are not using them to purchase the food to feed their children – to me that sounds like there is a bigger problem afoot and while I’m not a big fan for child services intervention, having the means to feed your child but not doing so sure looks like something they should look into.

If there isn’t overlap between the programs and why they aren’t means tested, I would be interested in getting some sources of info to read. Please refrain from articles about it being government’s job to feed everyone – it will fall on deaf ears as we don’t have a duty to feed our neighbor and his kids when he makes $500K/year but blew his grocery budget on a new yacht (if people have prioritization issues, that’s their problem).

UPDATE (further reading): Here’s an article on the PLSF from Brookings from 2016: The coming Public Service Loan Forgiveness bonanza (I guess the bonanza is moving forward) and an article a couple of alternative student loan suggestions to think about: Two Conservative Ideas for Fixing Student Loans (see also Fixing student loans—the right way). Finally, here’s a bit of perspective from CNN (Wealthy Borrowers Will Benefit Most From Elizabeth Warren’s Student Debt Forgiveness Plan) and Brookings (The Typical Household with Student Loan Debt).