Not surprisingly, it turns out that refusing to raise taxes and firing your police and firefighting force instead is not a recipe for success now that we live in the new normal of record-breaking heat waves, drought, and wild fires.
Bloomberg has an excellent report on the fiscal situation of the areas hit hardest by the past month’s wild fires in Colorado, and it’s not very encouraging if you’re someone who believes raising taxes is a fate worse than death.
The city where the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 346 homes and forced more than 34,000 residents to evacuate turned off one-third of its streetlights two years ago, halted park maintenance and cut services to close a $28 million budget gap after sales-tax revenue plummeted and voters rejected a property-tax increase.
The municipality, at 416,000 the state’s second-largest, auctioned both its police helicopters and shrank public-safety ranks through attrition by about 8 percent; it has 50 fewer police and 39 fewer firefighters than five years ago. More than 180 National Guard troops have been mobilized to secure the city after the state’s most destructive fire. At least 32 evacuated homes were burglarized and dozens of evacuees’ cars were broken into, said Police Chief Pete Carey. [...]
Colorado Springs, which depends on sales tax for about half of its revenue, was hit harder than most. The city — the birthplace 20 years ago of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which later passed statewide and has been pushed around the country to restrict government spending — became a high-profile example of cost-cutting. The law restricts government spending to the previous year’s revenue, adjusted only for population growth and inflation. [...]
Six of the nine candidates in last year’s nonpartisan mayoral election, including the victor, Mayor Steve Bach, signed a pledge to oppose any tax increases.
It’s worth pointing out that a significant portion of the homes burned to the ground by this wave of wild fires were not the homes of the poor. Many of them were hillside palaces which were undoubtedly home to those who voted against raising their own property taxes. Property taxes which may have saved their homes from the fire or their personal belongings from looters.
If it weren’t for the collateral damage caused by their own shortsightedness, I would have no sympathy, but they weren’t the only ones effected by the worst wild fires in the state’s history, and on any other given day they are not the ones suffering from the city’s lack of revenue.
The Bloomberg report also adds
“Forget the fire,” said the mayor, whose office has an easel with a chart depicting Colorado Springs’s financial status, after a briefing on the blaze June 30. “At our current cost curve, we’ll be insolvent in eight years.”
Bach said the financial situation “certainly has affected our ability to take care of other things like parks and keeping the streetlights on.”
Now let me ask you…
…do those look like the homes of people who can’t afford to pay 3% more in taxes to keep the street lights on and firefighters ready for the big one?
Americans want all the benefits of civilized society but don’t want to pay for any of it.
(photo via Denver Post)