GRT – which many of us think of as a sales tax – adds to the cost of virtually every purchase we make. And it’s added multiple times to some purchases. GRT builds on itself like a snowball, burdening our local businesses and taking its toll on our families at every turn. It hits those living on fixed incomes particularly hard. And it hampers economic growth, the only sustainable path to prosperity for all of us.
The tax hike we vote on next month is the tenth hike in the County GRT in the past 15 years. That averages out to an increase every 18 months. As a result of all these increases, the County imposes GRT at a rate almost 2½ times higher than it did in 2002.
And GRT rate hikes don’t happen in a vacuum. They are just one example of how government feeds its insatiable appetite for our money. In February, property taxes for many in Santa Fe County were increased to fund Santa Fe Public School’s $100 million bond referendum. In May, the Santa Fe City Council denied city residents relief from that increase by unilaterally extending the $30 million bond for parks that voters had agreed to in 2008. That bond would have expired – and property tax rates gone down – absent the City Council’s extension of it, an action the Council took so it could give city government workers an across-the-board pay raise.
And we must not forget higher parking fees, proposals for higher gas taxes and the proposed sugar tax. Santa Feans worked hard to defeat the sugar tax and voters county-wide need to work together just as hard to defeat the GRT rate hike.
In voting “NO,” residents should not be misled into believing the hike is needed to fund essential first responder and behavioral health needs. The County Commission took care of those needs with the other GRT rate hike it approved at its June 27 meeting. That rate hike – which will cost taxpayers $4.6 million per year – also turns a budgeted 2 percent across-the-board raise for county government workers into a 3 percent raise.
Rather, the tax hike we need to defeat in the September 19 special election will create a slush fund of almost $2 million annually. That’s right! At a time when families are struggling to provide for their own essential needs, our county commissioners want to reach even deeper into our pockets to fund their own wish lists. Wish lists that recently have included things like $100,000 for a new county logo (that no one liked) and more than $4.1 million to build an equestrian center in Stanley (for which taxpayers pay $100,000 annually to manage, even though it sits idle most of the time). And we must not forget the $7 million commissioners spent for a 470-acre ranch without a plan for what to do with it once we, the taxpayers, owned it.
In today’s economy, it doesn’t take long for a family to spend $1,000 on essentials. With the latest round of tax hikes approved by the Santa Fe County Commission, the combination of state, county and city GRT adds $82.50 to the cost in Edgewood, $85 to the cost in the city of Santa Fe and a whopping $91.25 to the cost in the Santa Fe County portions of Española.
We need to say “Enough” and vote “NO” on Sept. 19.
Yvonne Chicoine is chair of the Republican Party of Santa Fe County.