Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sept. 3: Why "No New Taxes" Isn't Always a Good Idea

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Politicians love to thump their chests and say "No new taxes." It's almost always an automatic vote-getter.

But the lines outside driver's license bureaus across Florida early this week show why the "no new taxes" motto isn't always a good idea.

Besides taxes, elected officials try to avoid raising fees whenever possible. Because of that, the fee for getting a new driver's license or renewing a license hadn't increased in years.

This year, because of the hit the state budget has taken, that changed - and how. The fee for a new license has shot from $27 to $48. It's even worse for those renewing their licences; the fee has gone up 140 percent, from $20 to that same $48. (Full disclosure: I'm one of the license renewers who will cough up more dough.)

Naturally, Floridians are screaming and yelling about how unjust the increase is in a year when the economy is bad and so many people are out of work.

What's really unjust is that the Florida Legislature spent all those chest-thumping years paying much more attention to the health of their re-election campaign treasuries than to the budget they administer.

Had they really focused on the state budget through the good years, they would have risked some complaints by raising fees gradually - but not as much anger as this lump-sum increase is generating now.

Both elected officials and, yes, voters need to learn that sound fiscal responsibility includes making the hard choices on raising taxes and fees even during the supposed good times, not only when an emergency leaves no choice. It's better to sacrifice a few votes today than a lot of needed dollars tomorrow.

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