“For someone who a few weeks ago complained about how much taxes your company had to pay, you sure make it sound like the Republicans in Tallahassee are all to blame. Yet you think they should raise state taxes to take the ‘burden‘ off local governments. Isn’t that what local governments are for? Maybe you should be a little less biased in writing in your newspaper.” – D.
D., I do have a bias. I admit it. I am a localist. What I prefer is more decision-making at the local level.
I have another bias. I believe local officials tend to be public servants. My experience is local officials mostly speak in truth and fact with the public.
On the other hand, I am not sure if there is a true public servant left in Washington, D.C. I think Washington, D.C., is about power and political parties and not about the people. Truth and fact in Washington, D.C., went out of style decades ago.
I believe the state level falls in between.
When the state government starts acting more like the folks in Washington, D.C., I will admit, it gets under my skin. My previous column about the state’s imperial behavior reflected my irritation.
Here’s another example of the state’s behavior.
The state of Florida regularly reduces taxes at the state level. This allows your state representatives to claim on their campaign material they are cutting your taxes.
We still need those services, though. To pay for the needed services, the state of Florida passes laws to require local governments to pay for these expenses the state used to pay for. Saying the state government is cutting your taxes, while requiring local governments to raise taxes, creates a less than truthful relationship between the politicians and the public – whether done by Democrats or Republicans.
For instance, the state moved much of the education funding burden to the local government and now dictates the exact property tax rates for education funding at the local level to pay for what used to be a state burden. The state of Florida mandates exactly at what tax rate each county school board is to set their property rate. It’s called, “The required local match.”
I’ll never forget one of my legislators who bragged about how the state had just funded another $5 billion for our schools while cutting taxes at the state level.
We said, “Well to be fair, the state didn’t fund the increase in education spending. You forced the counties to raise their taxes to pay for it.”
This legislator got angry, saying, “What’s the damn difference? When did you become head of the teacher’s union?”
I consider top-down, micromanagement of local government and the imperial manner of the state government to be counter to the ideals of the founders — whether the imperial policies are implemented by Democrats or Republicans.
I believe the closer the government is to the people, the more capitalist, free-market and responsive in nature government becomes.
There are 67 counties and 411 incorporated municipalities in Florida, and just one state government. We could see lots of positive experimentation at the local level if our state government would just leave our local governments alone to manage local issues locally.
When the state dictates how each local government must act and tax, according to the wishes of the state government, that feels more in the style of an autocratic socialist system. That’s not my cup of tea – whether perpetuated on the public by Republicans or Democrats.
D., I’m not trying to pick on Republicans, but I am picking on behaviors that I believe are not in the spirit of being a public servant or good government.
Thanks for your thoughtful civil dialogue and helping make my biases more transparent to our readers.
Share your thoughts.
David Dunn-Rankin is CEO of D-R Media, which owns the Winter Haven Sun, Four Corners News-Sun and Polk News-Sun in Polk County, as well as newspapers in Highlands, Lake and Sumter counties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.