Mooresville writer John Deem has a rock-anthem-inspired take this morning on the proposals in the General Assembly to shift sales tax revenues from urban to rural areas of the state:
Sales tax redistribution: Money for nothing and your trips for free
By John Deem
Nearly all of the debate over Republican legislators’ proposals for redistributing sales taxes has focused on fairness.
Is “point of sale” distribution unfair to rural counties whose residents spend money in urban areas but whose communities get none of the local sales tax collected on those purchases?
Is the notion of suddenly shifting millions of dollars in revenue unfair to the urban areas that must cut services, raise taxes, or both, to make up for unexpected shortfalls?
As is often the case when politicians create a solution then look for a problem, the local sales tax fairness doctrine misses the point completely.
Rural residents travel to urban areas to spend money because that’s where the businesses are. Those businesses are in urban areas because that’s where the people are. Lots of them.
It costs money to build and maintain roads, water and sewer systems, and other infrastructure to accommodate not just residents, but also the throngs of workers, shoppers, sports fans and others outsiders drawn to an urban area’s employers, stores and attractions. So does providing adequate levels of police, fire and emergency medical services not just for the local citizenry, but for the visitors taking advantage of everything the big city has to offer (and that their own communities do not).
Local governments in urban areas outspend rural communities on a per capita basis not because they can, but because they have no choice. Large populations create unique challenges that can’t be addressed through “equal” funding, which can be a puzzling concept for some elected officials who rest on the simplicity of ideology rather than the complexity of reality.
The fact is, residents of rural communities already get the best of both worlds. They have access to urban amenities, usually within a reasonable drive, but have to deal with few, if any, of the challenges urban communities must wrangle with every day. Meeting those urban challenges costs money – money rural communities don’t have to spend and, therefore, should not siphon from their big city neighbors.
That’s only fair.