***An important meeting is being held this coming Monday night, January 23, 2012, at 5:00 p.m., at the Washington County Quorum Court (SE corner of College and Dickson–park behind the building). This is the County Services Committee, and it is in these meetings that decisions are made and information is presented. Please be there if you can.**
You may recall we mentioned a few months back that Ozark Regional Transit has requested the Washington County Quorum Court to approve a 1/4-cent sales tax, most likely to be on the ballot at the May 22 primary this year. The same tax was already voted down by the Benton County Quorum Court. At first glance, people may wonder what the big deal is about a 1/4-cent tax for something like public transportation.
Some Washington County Tea Party members attended the first reading of this tax proposal at the quorum court meeting last week. There were many emotional stories of the people who depend on this public transportation, and many members of the quorum court apparently agreeing with the idea that government exists to provide things for people. While public transportation was at one time entirely privately funded in this country, it became publicly subsidized after federal transportation law was passed about 40 years ago. Now, all public transportation is publicly-subsidized in this country, but ORT is 83% subsidized by your tax dollars. While we recognize that some people truly do rely on this transportation, the amount of money they would receive from this tax increase far exceeds what they actually want the money for, and we think that creative options can and must be discussed rather than running to the already overburdened taxpayers again as the first option. ORT will continue receiving federal subsidies for another 2 years, and that allows plenty of time to have a reasonable discussion about other ways of handling transportation issues that don’t involve a tax increase.
Please understand, this is not a case where services will be decreased if this tax does not pass. The situation is that ORT would like to expand its routes, and they are asking for much more than they actually would need to even do that. We observe many mostly empty buses around Northwest Arkansas and wonder if expanding bus routes in Northwest Arkansas is actually a critical need for Washington County taxpayers to pay right now. Some of you may recall that expanded routes were tried in Northwest Arkansas within recent years and subsequently abandoned for lack of ridership. Northwest Arkansas is simply not enough of an urban community to justify the need for all county residents to pay for something that few (percentage-wise) county residents actually use.
The Washington County Quorum Court voted last May to “send it to the voters to decide.” At least, that is what they thought they were voting. Apparently, state law mandates the way the ballot measure is worded, and the wording effectively states that the court approves or “recommends” the tax to the voters. That has many of the quorum court members reconsidering their votes this time, especially in light of the information stated above. One important concern we have is this: Once this tax is added on, granting ORTmillions more dollars than they really need, they will find ways to spend it, and when will the tax ever expire? It has been the experience of recent history that taxes do not expire, and that government finds ways to spend what is given to them.
The tax proposal will be on the agenda for a second reading at the regular February quorum court meeting (February 9), and that will most likely be the final vote on whether this tax goes to the ballot or not. It will be much harder to defeat once it is on the ballot.
Here’s where you can make a difference! You may click here
to find the phone number for your jp or all of them and tell them what you think about this proposed tax increase. This information is posted on our web site also at www.washingtoncountyteaparty.com/local
. A polite email or phone call explaining your concerns could make a big difference.
Their emails addresses are:
Yours for liberty,
The WCTP team
Join us on facebook (search for Washington Co. Tea Party)