Thursday, November 13, 2008

still up to their old ways

I was hopeful that the loss of Speaker Curtis would be a wake up call to Utah Legislators, not only to pursue serious ethics reform in a state that is rated at the bottom of by watchdog groups, but also to change the overall bully mentality that the legislative branch has towards potential political rivals, not just the Rocky Andersons but also the Jon Huntsmans.

On the plus side,ethics reform seems like it will actually happen next February, but of course, the devil can sneak into the details. However I was disheartened to read this:
Some local government officials are alarmed over newly proposed legislation that would block or severely restrict agencies with appointed boards from raising property taxes.
Sam Dickson, manager with the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District, said one version of the bill would essentially wipe out the district's ability to exist. That version would halt a non-elected board's ability to levy taxes for any new projects after 2010.
He also worried about an alternate version that would require a public vote for any tax increase.
"We're a forgotten entity in November," Dickson said. "If you have an election in July, it might help. But we don't have a lot of cheerleaders - we don't have the cute little animals the zoo can put out there."
The bill, unveiled Wednesday during a meeting of the Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee, is aimed at increasing transparency in property-tax issues and holding officials accountable, said panel chairman Sen. Wayne Niederhauser.
"I would like to see us craft something in legislation that would bring the accountability but yet not hurt the long-term issues that come with special districts," Niederhauser said.
Richard Bay, the general manager of the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, said that taxpayers could end up paying more for services such as water if special districts lose their ability to increase taxes.
While the buzzwords are there (transparency, accountability), the overall aim is to take power away from local governmental entities and concentrate power in the hands of the legislature so that they get to decide who wins and loses. Or in this case, who gets West Nile Virus or clean water. Frankly, I just don't trust anyone from the Utah County or Sandy machines to do the right thing in terms of looking at the bigger picture and looking out for more than just their friends.

Nor should all Utahns have to dole out their hard earned tax dollars for things better left to the decisionmaking process of local governments (cough RSL stadium cough cough). And sure, these taxing decisions should be made by elected officials who will have to face the music from voters if they go too far, but those officials should be those closest to the issue at hand, and not those insulated from the will of the voters ala the legislature.

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