The City Council and the Mayor have already decided they need to raise taxes and/or fees to cover a phony $13 million budget shortfall for 2012-2013. They simply need political cover to do it. They need to create the illusion that there is a ground swell of public support for raising taxes. For instance, St. Pete resident Jim Latchford had a well-timed letter published in the Tampa Bay Times today stating that the city should not do “less with less”. Then, in an amazing coincidence, Mayor Foster used the same line tonight in his statements to the crowd. Maybe their long term relationship had something to do with the letter in the paper today – of course published at length by the pro-tax Times. For these politicians, there is no question of cutting the increased spending the city has created every year. They seem to think every dollar in this city is theirs and it is their job to spend it so the commoners can have a “quality of life” that the government defines. They use the same nonsense about tax “rates” being low for years, but ignore that tax collections rose to record highs in 2007. Back then the very same city leaders stated it was impossible to cut a penny from their coffers because the quality of life would suffer, police would not come, firemen would not come, parks and rec. centers would close etc. They all spouted the same exact nonsense tonight. They were untrustworthy then and are untrustworthy now. The political circus was on full display tonight as the City Council held their second in a series of “Budget Summits” to gather public input. Who was there cheerleading for more taxes? The SEIU, CONA, the League of Women Voters, The NAACP, the Sierra Club and Occupy St. Pete.
These groups comprise “the People’s Budget Review” (PBR). The room was packed with their supporters, sporting expensive buttons with commercial quality logos funded from the budgets of the various components groups. They also have a website, weekly meetings, organized surveys and what would certainly be considered a community organizer’s dream of an astroturf movement. So, basically, the SEIU, a group of people that often work as public employees and that collect dues from government paychecks, are funding a political campaign to raise taxes in St. Pete. The tax hikers outnumbered the tax cutters in the room, but there were a good number of people complaining about high taxes and pointing out that the city had a spending problem, and not a revenue problem.
The PBR as conducted surveys that justify increased taxes. However, a review of their questions reveal a very biased set of questions that lead people to elect to raise taxes. In addition, they do not report how many people taking the survey are members of the SEIU, CONA, NAACP and the rest. These groups generally benefit from government largesse and want higher taxes to continue their gravy train of pension and health benefits and government handouts. For instance, in St. Petersburg, the city owes retired workers $177 million in health insurance benefits for them and their family members. Yet they have not saved a penny to pay for it, counting on the current taxpayers to fund the retirements of those who quit working in their mid 50’s.
The first PBR survey asked a series of questions about whether they thought things like Police, fire, parks, libraries, arts, economic development and similar things were important. Then they ask the following question: “do you want to raise taxes $2,$6 or $12 per month or not raise taxes “even if it means additional city services will be cut”. Notice there is NO option for cutting wasteful spending, excessive employee benefits, crony capitalism, failed programs and the like. Just an assumption that not raising taxes will result in a loss of services. Again, they do not report the political party affiliation or government relationship status of those polled. There second survey starts with the question of “how will we raise revenue”. Not, is raising revenue or cutting spending a better idea! In fact, if you don’t answer on HOW you will raise revenue, you can’t even continue with the survey! The jury has decided…taxes must go up!
1st Question from People’s Budget Review. There is NO choice but to RAISE TAXES!
The meeting ending comically and tragically (good comedy is always tragic) with a gentlemen stating he was a cancer survivor that moved here “to die here” and he expected a good standard of living at the end of his life that the city would provide, just like everyone took care of him at the beginning of his life. This typified much of the testimony from the PBR crowd. Particularly entertaining were known socialists and Marxists form Occupy St. Pete dressing up nicely for the meeting and then advocating more government, more taxes and decrying any thought of privatizing anything. Maria Jose, a publically proclaimed socialist and non-citizen who indicated she somehow receives Medicare and Medicaid money, arose and decried the lack of “conflict resolution”. She then attacked anyone who disagreed with her as uninformed, uncaring and unintelligent. Classic.
The city politicians and the political class are taking the city residents for a ride. They are about to impose a further economic drain on the city in the middle of a bad recession. They refuse to acknowledge that THEY caused this recession. Their high taxes, their wasteful spending, their over-regulation, their memorial Pier project and the rest. They swim in a circle of the elite political class that frequent the expensive museums they build that locals can’t afford, go to the grand prix, parties at the trop and plan a multi-billion train to nowhere here in Pinellas county. Their actions are immoral, unjust and create austerity, not prosperity. Their political circus is an insult to taxpayers.