This is a two part rant; Part 1 is mostly complaining. If you don’t like constructive complaining, just wait for part 2!
A few weeks ago after the announcement of the mayor’s proposal to levy multiple fees and fine hikes city wide in an effort to close the most catastrophic budget gap the city has ever seen, I made a brilliant set of suggestions as to how we might avoid such fees and fines, and possibly get Baltimore off of its collective knees for the time being. Welp, those suggestions were not addressed by the mayor or the city council. So I’d like to address these proposals head on.
Literally every idea being put out by the powers that be – bottle taxes, cell phone taxes, bed taxes, parking taxes, on and on – are nothing more than a collective shakedown, a city-wide version of the Cafe Hon pink flamingo fiasco.
As I said back then: “Sooner or later they will find a new way to try to get your money, one way or another. Always and forever.”
What makes this situation special is the fact that they aren’t even making an attempt at putting any “social value” in these fees, like raising the taxes on a pack of cigarettes and swearing up and down that the revenue will go to treatment centers. It’s a five-alarm grab at everyone’s money. From citizens to non-profits to businesses, these proposals act as a giant, short term bandaid which only looks one year into the future. They do nothing to foster growth in business, the citizenry or the infrastructure, and in the case of bed fees and bottle fees will more than likely have an opposite effect.
And here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. While listening to Dan Rodrick’s show on YPR today, there was a very interesting bit of exchange (link to podcast forthcoming) between the guests and host in which the concept of non-profits, who currently are exempt from property taxes in the city (and effectively cover over 60% of it), might shoulder some of the burden. A myriad of fees and other forms of taxation were discussed: increasing the energy tax – which would affect all business, not just non-profits, levying a fee for public services like police and firemen, a sandwich tax, a toilet paper tax …ok they didn’t talk about those last two but I’m sure it was discussed in private.
At any rate, after listing all of these ideas the final concept was brought forth; that these non-profits should pay “a fee in lieu of taxes.” Translation: “Hey the city is broke so cut us a check for $50 million or we’re gonna put permanent taxes all over you.” Is this not the very definition of a shakedown? Can’t I just cut the city a check for like, a hundred bucks, and exempt myself from some of these other fees and increases? Because I would totally do it.
This is mostly just whining, but the major take home points here are that this quick fix approach isn’t going to work in the long run, it’s predatory toward the city’s own residents, and once these fees are in place they will never go away.
But of course, none of this addresses the issue of where the money will come from, now does it! Coz that’s what part 2 is for!
(stay tuned ok)