The 64 Million Dollar Question

  Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas

My granddaughter’s dance recital is happening soon and the theme for the choreography is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  Though I’d seen the Disney version growing up I’d never actually read the stories, until now as preparation for enjoying her recital.  So it was natural that when I read recent drivel on the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs website my mind went to the famous characters Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

The post by OCPA President Jonathan Small (my Tweedledee) “Government’s fair share” reiterates an argument made by my fave OCPA Limited Thinker Steve Anderson (my Tweedledum) that I addressed in an earlier post Lighthouses—namely that our state would somehow be better off if only school districts, other local governments and our state government itself would pay sales taxes.  I won’t waste more space here explaining why this proposal is silly except to say that in the short run it would simply shift tax revenues around among our various governmental entities and likely add to the bureaucracy the OCPA so despises to process the additional tax payments and collections, in some cases from and to the same entity. 

This is how Alice (me in this case) might put it: 

I think it would be a silly waste for government to pay taxes to itself. Anybody can see that would raise its costs by the amount it pays in taxes to itself, which in turn collects the taxes to pay for these very costs, so the same things get done except more time is needed for the paying and collecting of taxes.

And the response from our OCPA Tweedledee:  So Anybody thinks government shouldn’t pay taxes, but it isn’t so nohow.

Supported by our OCPA Tweedledum:  Contrariwise if it was so, it might be.  And if it were so, it would be.  But as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic. 

At least it’s OCPA logic.  Their “research and analysis” always begins with their conclusion—government is bad and wastes the money it spends so we need less government, always.  Then they back their analysis and argument into their conclusion.  Real research and analysis begins with collecting the relevant facts, analyzing them and then reaching a conclusion based on actual facts and thoughtful analysis. 

One fact of interest is what would be the impact on our school districts which would not be collecting all the sales taxes they would pay.  In the short run here’s my estimate of what it would do, using the State Department of Education’s latest OCAS reporting for all school districts, FY 2015-16.  The reporting code Object series 600 is entirely stuff, like supplies, that would be subject to sales tax.  That total for all funds, all districts, was $676.5 million.  Additionally, in the reporting code Object series 300-500’s (construction services that includes materials and some utilities) that totaled $879.9 million and Object series 700’s (school buses and equipment) that totaled $267.9 million, there is much also subject to sales taxes.  Let’s just do it the OCPA way (check out Something Special,Waiting for Dave Bond, and Done Waiting for Mr. Bond) and pull a number out of the air, or maybe out of their Data Tool, and say $123.5 million of those Object series expenditures is also taxable.  

That makes total expenditures by school districts in FY 2016 that would be subject to sales taxes about $800 million.  The combined state and local rate statewide is about 8% so that comes to $64 million additional funding school districts will require to maintain their already declining business as usual.  And what is your plan to replace that $64 million Mr. Small, our Tweedledee?  Oh, I forgot.   You don’t really care as long as it makes it harder to provide government services at all levels, because you know that government is bad, wasteful, and bad.  Besides we can educate all our children by putting them in front of a computer screen all day—just need an adult to take attendance…or not.

Lunch on me for the first to ID the photo location.  ID’d by Terry Young–sort of.


3 thoughts on “The 64 Million Dollar Question”

    1. Wrong Terry; it’s the Meyerson in Dallas Arts District. But you win lunch because I grade on a curve. Talk to you soon.

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