Righties like to accuse liberals like me of being tax and spend Democrats, and I suppose, to some extent I am.
See, as a liberal, I believe in using government to improve our collective quality of life by providing services and investing in infrastructure. But, I also believe that we need to pay for these services and investments by responsibly raising the necessary revenue… you know… we need to raise enough taxes to pay for what we spend.
In that sense, “tax and spend” is both liberal, and fiscally conservative.
The Seattle Times, on the other hand, appears to be embracing a less responsible philosophy of government, one which I have dubbed “no-tax and spend.” Like your run of the mill politician, the Times ed board is much more enamored of cutting taxes than it is of cutting services. For example, it’s latest rant against a bill that would allow the Department of Natural Resources to charge timber companies, developers and others a reasonable fee for accessing valuable data that collects.
The other bad bill, Senate Bill 6747, would allow the state Department of Natural Resources to charge exorbitant fees to citizens for access to the agency’s Natural Heritage Program, which includes a database of species and ecosystems that are a priority for conservation. The costs could be as high as $6,000 for an annual subscription or $100 per request plus a $75/hour charge.
Money throughout state agencies is tight, but charging hefty fees for information intended to be public is an irresponsible solution. If the DNR imposes such fees, expect more agencies to follow suit with public-request-killing fees.
Of course, the Times is either befuddled or befuddling or both, as this bill has nothing to do with public records requests, and does not authorize similar fees from other agencies. What it does do is allow DNR to continue the Natural Heritage Program by offsetting crippling budget cuts with a fee comparable to that being charged for a similar program in neighboring Oregon.
NHP has already seen a more than 50% cut in its biennial budget, from $1.38 million to $585,000, and further cuts would jeopardize an additional $240,000 in federal matching grants. The proposed fees would not cover the full cost of running the program, but it would stabilize funding enough to keep it going at current levels.
The Times and I both acknowledge that the NHP provides a valuable service, the difference is how we propose to pay for it. Personally, I’d prefer an adequate and fair broad-based tax system that provides sufficient and sustainable revenues to pay for services like the NHP, without resorting to user fees. But barring that, I’m not philosophically opposed to offsetting part of the cost of the program by charging timber companies, developers and other users the going rate for such services.
The Times, on the other hand, would prefer to pay for programs like the NHP by pulling wads of money out of a leprechaun’s ass. Or something like that.
Yeah sure, the Times has enunciated a few cost-saving proposals, most of which involve fucking the state employee unions, but in general there has been a remarkable disconnect on its op-ed page between its reflexive support for popular government services, and its knee-jerk opposition to the taxes and fees necessary to pay for them. As the Times points out, the state isn’t the federal goverment… “it cannot print money or borrow from China.” So something has to give.
When it comes to the NHP, I say “tax and spend,” whereas the Times simply says “spend.” You figure out for yourself which one of us is being more fiscally responsible.