Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Now Hiring! Office of shortsightedness ...

I've often said lately that the office of short-sightedness is the most heavily staffed and funded office in government.

A couple weeks ago the Niagara County Department of Short-Sightedness added to its ranks.

While Town of Niagara turn coat ... er, Democrat who votes Republican ... Danny Sklarski wanted to make school shopping easier, his colleagues decided against it.

On July 15, our politicrats defeated a motion that would have given people shopping for clothing and shoes in Niagara County two one-week reprieves on local sales tax.

The "tax holidays" would have fallen on Aug. 26 through Sept. 1 (just in time for school) and from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1.

The state already has declared a moratorium on those dates and its share of sales tax revenue. Our neighboring county of Erie did, as well.

And local business owners fear that with Niagara County charging tax those two weeks and Erie County NOT, our shoppers will simply take a trip across the county line to do their shopping there.

I don't blame them. I'd fear the same thing.

But county pols don't carry about local business owners. They care about tax revenue.

Oh, they pretend to care about local businesses ... by claiming that local businesses aren't local.

Take as an example this quote from Legislator Lee Simonson from the legislature floor: "The businesses Mr. Sklarski is trying to help are not local. The factory outlet ... the stores there are owned by out of town people who hire overseas workers to manufacture clothing and shoes."

And the employees that work in the Outlet Mall, Mr. Simonson? Are they fuzzy foreigners, too?

But you and I know that what it really is is that the county thinks they'd lose money if they gave up the sales tax for those two weeks.

It seems that according to the county treasurer, we would lose $256,000 in revenue if we gave up the sales tax on clothes and shoes for a week. The loss would be over half a million dollars for the two weeks.

Now I have several different points of contention here.

First: if we make $256,000 a week on sales tax on CLOTHES AND SHOES ALONE, that's $13.3 million in sales tax annually ... just from shoes and clothes. Seems a bit far-fetched to me.

Second: Not having the tax free week may give us a few dollars in the coffers that we wouldn't have otherwise, but it could also back fire miserably as disenfranchised shoppers could realize that they like shopping in Erie County once they give it a try.

And Third: How greedy can these people get? I mean, they just raised the sales tax by a percent - for the whole year, I might point out - they can't do without that sales tax for two weeks?

The 19 civil servants that run county government aren't too civil ... and I'm not sure who they're serving, but it's not you or me.

Maybe I'm too hard on our politicians.

No I'm not - and everyone but them would likely agree.

As an aside on this topic, I asked Mayor Sullivan if the city couldn't implore the county to act on tax free week ... and he basically said that advocacy wasn't government's role. If it's not, then what is?

Also, can I point out that this is an election year? If they treat us this poorly while asking for our votes, how bad are they going to treat us once (and if) they get (re)elected?

I have half a mind to tell you all to vote with your wallets and do your shopping in Erie County ... but then that would hurt the business owners - the same people I'm trying to help by pointing out the county's shortcomings.

And finally, even if county pols don't get it, it seems that state politicians understand that the ever increasing sales tax burden hurts the economy - otherwise, why would they eliminate it for two weeks?

So if they know that high taxes are killing the state, why do they keep raising them?

Chalk up another victory to short-sightedness.