Taxation with Representation
Getting what you pay for
On April 15--Tax Day--two hundred people gathered on the Diag to protest taxation. We called five county commissioners to ask if they'd been persuaded to cut taxes.
With the county facing a projected $26 million drop in tax revenue over the next two years, it's not surprising the thought hadn't crossed their minds. "If we cut taxes, that just means we've got to cut services and employees," says Democratic board chair Rolland Sizemore. "Taxation is the way we pay for services."
Democratic former board chair Jeff Irwin agrees. "County services are so important to the community, and the cuts that we're already facing are so deep, that cutting even deeper would redound to the community's detriment. Look at the places in the country and around the world that are doing the best right now. They're the ones that have the higher level of taxation. You get what you pay for. "
Republican Mark Ouimet points out that "some people in Washtenaw County will be paying less taxes than last time as our tax revenues will start rolling back from $107 million to $86 million in the next six years. People living in the out-county will see it more because property values fluctuate more there than they do in the cities.
Republican Jessica Ping says she's not trying to cut taxes, but she is "trying to fight putting a tax on. Some people think that's the solution, but it's not. The way things are now, I think we're making progress by not putting a county-wide tax on!"
Asked if she was considering cutting taxes, Ann Arbor Democrat Barbara Bergman exploded. "Oh, screw you! I want Michigan to have a progressive income tax. If those people protesting downtown think they can run the government without taxes, screw them! That is insane. Do they think they're not represented?
Sizemore summed it up more diplomatically. "Since you're having a controversial gathering, do you want police protection?" he asks. "Did you need a permit?" Without taxes, he points out, none of those exist--and "if people throw tomatoes at you, there's no police officer" to call.
[Originally published in April, 2009.]