Hall County's spending crisis did not blindside us; clear warnings have been issued time and again. Anyone even casually glancing at The Times foreclosures sections since the financial collapse knew trouble was coming.
How many thousands of foreclosures in these past few years? How much pain and crushed dreams do they represent among families? How many crushed dreams of contractors, many of them contractors who provided jobs for thousands of us?
Clearly, the impending budget shortfalls could have been predicted. And we did not have just a mere hint to trouble brewing. We had detailed warning and suggested budget cuts that should be made as early as 2007, when Doug Aiken and the Hall County Taxpayers Group began suggesting those specific cuts.
Those warnings were ignored, and cuts now will be more painful than if they had been made earlier. More painful still will be increased taxes and those increased taxes will be on homes and other properties whose market values have dropped drastically.
While market values have dropped, for the most part the tax assessments have not fallen accordingly. Combine the proposed increases with the drop in values without a corresponding drop in assessed value and taxpayers might be in for what is effectively a 35 or 40 percent tax increase.
The Hall County Republican Party opposes the proposed tax increases. As background to the HCRP's opposition to any proposed tax increase, I offer our principle on the proper level of taxes:
Taxes should be no higher than what is required to pursue the necessary ends of government.
Restricting taxes is necessary for restraining government's endless appetite for growth, and hence for avoiding excessive taxes and threats to individual freedom and prosperity. This principle demands both restraint in spending and limiting the scope of government to its proper functions. Proper limits are key.
The first guide for cuts is nonessentials, but we recognize that cuts will also hit some essential services. And, yes, every special interest believes their favorite program is "essential." But they're not. Certainly, some essentials are more important than others and we're asking for cuts that we can learn to live with in these hard times. We are all making cuts and government can't be an exception.
Yes, Hall County has a crisis. We encourage the elected leadership to set priorities with the limited resources in dealing with this crisis. And we need to remember that these aren't just hard times for government; they're hard times for the people paying taxes. We don't need to make it more difficult for people to hold on to their houses. All citizens are encouraged to appear at the public hearing to be held on June 9, 2010 at 6 p.m. at the Georgia Mountains Center. Wear a red shirt if you are against the tax increase; I will be wearing one.
Charles Lewis, chairman;
Jim Pilgrim, Paul Stanley, Kerry Cook,
Joseph W. Cwik, former chairmen
Hall County Republican Party, Gainesville