Only in the land of government excess could an increase in taxes and spending be deemed "conservative." That, however, is what some city leaders throughout Idaho are trying to convince us. Because they can't govern in a conservative manner, they're redefining what it means to be conservative. It's just a marketing ploy, and an unfortunate one at that.
Last month, the Sandpoint City Council unveiled a budget and hailed it as "conservative" even though it contemplated an increase in spending of two percent. I can't possibly make this stuff up. And to prove it, here's a quote from a member of the city government:
“It’s a conservative budget this year,” Councilman Stephen Snedden said last month after the increased budget was unveiled.
See? Told you.
In Coeur d'Alene, the city is contemplating a 1.5 percent increase in property taxes. "We're asking the citizens an awful lot, but this is the best balance we can come up with," said Mayor Sandi Bloem, according to a story in the Coeur d'Alene Press.
In Nampa last week, Mayor Tom Dale said the city has put together a "conservative" budget that will raise property taxes by 5 percent. The city will accomplish this by collecting the 2 percent it could have collected last year but didn't, and the 3 percent it can collect this year.
In reality, the people who run government -- and certainly the people behind these budget proposals --don't understand conservatism at all. The folks who get it are the people who run businesses and have to meet a payroll. As much as businesses would like to institute a tax to collect more revenue, they can't. They'll make the really hard choices, or they'll go out of business. They'll cut expenses. That means reducing benefits, getting rid of insurance coverage altogether, cutting wages and letting employees go. Indeed, people on fixed incomes understand conservatism also. They have to cut household expenses in order to meet a budget.
They have no choice.
Elected officials throughout Idaho have largely avoided these tough choices, instead throwing up their hands and saying, "we've done all we can. Time to raise taxes." And in order to justify it, they'll claim that without these tax increases, some government service will suffer -- usually police or fire protection. The threat of not having a police officer come when you call is usually enough to convince the public that maybe a small increase in taxes would be OK after all. Meanwhile, city governments hang onto their high wages, their generous health insurance and vacation packages and their over-staffed agencies.
Once the budget is passed, they'll use their publicly-paid PR firms and communications directors to tell us just how conservative they were. And then if we fail to pay their higher taxes, they'll threaten to take our homes and businesses away. So tell me then, where's the conservatism in that?