Questions about Prop 1

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Dr. Malcolm Cross
Dr. Malcolm Cross

On Monday, April 27, early voting began for the May 9 city election. One of the questions the voters will decide, presented in Prop 1, is whether to create a new Economic Development Corporation whose Board of Directors, to be appointed by the City Council, will recommend economic development projects to be funded out of taxpayers’ dollars. The materials produced by Prop 1’s supporters raise, in this writer’s mind at least, more questions than answers.

For example, Prop 1’s supporters claim that the creation of the new government  EDC  “increases government efficiency and gives citizens a voice in how our tax dollars are spent.” But how does creating a new agency to spend more money make government more efficient? And how does creating a new layer of decision makers to advise the City Council increase public control over spending? 

And what about the claim about this new government agency, and the new spending programs it will recommend to the council, won’t they lead to higher taxes? Prop 1’s supporters say the EDC and its new projects will not be financed from a new tax, but from about $450,000 in current sales tax revenue. But that money is already being spent on existing service-providing programs. So won’t passage of Prop 1 mean we’ll have to either cut existing services to free up the money for the new economic projects, or else raise the property tax to keep funding them? 

Well, supporters of Prop 1 say we don’t have to worry about service cuts or tax increases because current economic growth will produce more money than the government will need to finance services at current levels. Therefore, they say, the EDC and the City Council will be able to use this extra money to increase spending on new economic development projects with no service cuts or tax increases. But, what if economic growth slows down and fails to produce surplus revenue for economic development? Then what? Service cuts after all? Or a property tax increase?

But assuming that the rosy scenario offered by Prop 1’s supporters comes true and the government can collect more revenue than it needs for current services, why should the government be allowed to keep the surplus at all? Do taxpayers’ dollars collected by the government truly belong to the government, or do they belong to the taxpayers themselves? 

If the government is able to collect more money than it needs, it should not use that money simply to expand its own size and spending. Rather, it should cut taxes and let the people keep more of their own money, to spend their own way. 

Letting taxpayers keep more of their own money is the best way to give them a greater voice in how their money is to be spent. And if empowering the people is the best way to stimulate economic growth and development, then we should not simply create a new government agency to figure out how to spend more of the people’s money. Rather we should limit government growth, keep taxes as low as possible, and rely on the wisdom and energy of a free people to drive the growth and development of THEIR economy as they use THEIR money THEIR way.  That’s why I’m voting AGAINST Prop 1.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987.  His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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