The following letter to the editor by Gila County Libertarian Party Secretary/Treasurer Larry Hoffenberg was published in the Payson Roundup on February 10, 2022.
To the Editor,
The Gila County Libertarian Party would like to weigh in on the Roundup’s January 11th above-the-fold top story titled “If it’s not the grocery tax, it’ll be another tax.” The article contained several key errors, misleading statements and omissions.
1. The headline implies that if the grocery tax is repealed, the town council must replace it with another tax. Is that written somewhere in the town charter? Breaking news!: Maybe, just maybe, the town can find a way to become more efficient and effective in how it performs its services, Maybe, just maybe, the citizens of Payson might actually prefer a lower level of services in exchange for lower taxes. Has anyone asked the taxpayers?
For the fiscal year 2021-2022, the town council approved a total budget of $49,500,000, a whopping FIFTEEN percent increase over the prior year. Even just looking at general operating expenses, spending is set to increase by 9 percent How many taxpayers got a 9% pay raise in 2021? Beyond the Town Manager, not many.
2. There isn’t much of anything left in America that isn’t already taxed, and taxed up the wazoo at that. Here is a partial list of what is currently taxed in America, Arizona, Gila County and the Town of Payson:
Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Marriage License Tax
Personal Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
Of course not all of the above applies to everyone all the time, but add it all up, the average American pays well over 50% of his or her income in taxes every year. Clearly, Paysonians are not under-taxed.
And all of this excludes “the cruelest tax of them all,” hidden inflation. The purchasing power of Americans’ income and life savings is being “taxed” away every year by anywhere from 8% to 12%, depending on how inflation is measured and defined.
3. The sub-headline of the article “Payson council learns cost of eliminating food tax” (emphasis added) demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of accounting, finance and budgeting principles, namely the difference between revenues and costs (expenses). Revenue is money coming in, costs are monies paid out. They are two fundamentally and independent measures. They are on opposite sides of a financial statement.
A reduction in revenue, as would happen if the food tax were eliminated, is not a “cost.” A reduction in revenue is just that, a reduction in money coming in. It is totally independent of costs, that is monies the town has to pay out. Sure, the town budget must balance, but that does not mean that expenses cannot be reduced to match the reduced revenue.
4. The article cites the fact that 27 out of 30 other municipalities in Arizona impose a tax on food. Fine. But is that really a moral and equitable justification for Payson to tax food? Perhaps this is a golden opportunity for Payson to do the right thing, to be a leader instead of a follower, and discontinue the grocery tax.
5. A grocery tax is one of the most regressive and repressive taxes ever conceived. Obviously, food is a necessity and lower income people pay a much higher proportion of their income on food than do more affluent people. Where’s the equity and justice in that?
A grocery tax for Payson? Libertarians don’t only say “no,” we say HELL NO!
Secretary/Treasurer – Gila County Libertarian Party