"A serious fiscal plan for America," Paul Krugman writes in the March 25 edition of The New York Times, "…would almost certainly include some kind of tax increase." Unfortunately, mainstream America appears to be all too tolerant of the anti-tax propaganda pushed by an enthusiastic and extreme right wing.
In New Mexico, Gov. Susana Martinez has not forced us to read her lips; she has shouted her mantra of "no new taxes" from the rooftops. Instead, as the Republicans and tea partyers at the federal level are demanding, budget deficits will be tackled by cutting spending on key services, even as New Mexico's unemployment situation worsens with the state's characteristic lag behind national benchmarks.
Krugman details the domino effect that extreme austerity measures have had in Europe, from Portugal's recent implosion to the dramatically deteriorating situation in Britain. Britain put its trust in the free market to pick up the slack once confidence was sufficiently bolstered by dramatic budget cuts. Instead, the free market choked, the job picture did not improve, the safety nets are gone and the deficit is climbing again. In one of the largest public protests in British history, between 250,000 and 450,000 marchers took to the streets on March 26 to demonstrate their anger with cuts to public services. Labor Party leader Ed Miliband spoke to protesters in Hyde Park, where he said, "Our struggle is to fight to preserve, protect and defend the best of the services we cherish because they represent the best of the country we love."
With the right wing continuing to champion lower and lower taxes for wealthy and corporate citizens, and the left wing afraid to raise taxes on anyone, the long-term picture for national fiscal health looks bleak. But the lesson again is that, while the celestial powers bicker, we need to look to local action to protect our communities.
This is why the plan announced by Mayor David Coss and City Councilors Rosemary Romero, Ron Trujillo, Chris Calvert and Carmichael Dominguez to increase city property taxes is not only a smart gambit, but a critical leadership move to ensure that Santa Fe insulates itself from the increasing burdens sloughed off on local governments by federal and state inaction.
Presenting the proposal as a $2-a-week increase for the "average homeowner" is a cheeky way to frame it that doesn't really soften the blow of a significant property tax increase, but the additional $4 million per year will go a long way toward continuing the level of services we demand from the city. I doubt there's a soul alive who loves paying taxes, but there's a big difference between federal taxes and local taxes. I hate that I have to pay my federal taxes just the same whether they go to the military budget and holding hearings on American Muslims, which I don't want, or to supporting NPR and Planned Parenthood, which I very much do want. But even if a property tax increase stings, when I see a firefighter helping an accident victim or a police officer preventing a crime, I know there's a direct correlation between the tax I pay and the service my community receives in return.
Basically, any American who believes in patriotism and who wants equal opportunity for everyone and a brighter economic future in general should be begging to be taxed a little heavier, especially in areas where the taxation is laughably light, as is the case with Santa Fe property taxes. I’m still waiting to see the Undertaxed Billionaires Alliance for Planned Parenthood spring into action but, in the meantime, I’m proud our local elected officials have the smarts and the brass to go against the grain and give us what we really need: a bill.
Tower moratorium news: A proposed six-month moratorium on new cellular towers in city limits was scheduled to be heard at the March 30 City Council meeting, after being delayed from earlier meetings on the advice of city attorneys. But City Councilors Patti Bushee and Chris Calvert, the co-sponsors of the moratorium, have formally withdrawn it from consideration, effectively ending debate on whether or not to institute a moratorium, at least as it was framed in their original proposal. Instead, changes to the land use code are expected to clarify city concerns about new towers, without the need for a moratorium. Calvert is expected to introduce those changes on Wednesday, March 30.
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