Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Priority for Essential Government Services?

Here in Los Angeles it's a time for campaigning.  Three of my friends are competing for one membership on the Los Angeles City Council.  Our current member is termed out and five or six people are campaigning to succeed him, including our local member of the more numerous branch of the state legislature.  He is the 800 pound gorilla in the race.  The election is March 5.  If he doesn't achieve a majority of the votes, there will be a run-off between him and the runner-up.  Each of my friends is hoping to be the runner-up.

All of this gossip about a local election is an introduction to my opinions about a remark I heard a few days ago.  It was some Republican, also a candidate somewhere for a minor elected position.  He commented that Democrats (I suppose that includes me) want to solve every problem by increasing taxes.  It led me to wonder.  If I perceive that the problem is that a government isn't able to provide adequately such services as police protection, fire prevention and extinguishing, schools, libraries, and street repair and maintenance, my solution is to find the extra income needed to provide the service.  (That's a nice way of saying, let's raise taxes.)  I then wondered what a typical Republican solution would be to such a problem.

I recall one Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who faced such a problem while he was Governor of California.  There was a program to provide assistance to disabled people who were trying to get an education.  (That's my memory of the problem.  The details don't matter.)  His solution was to enroll applicants for the program until the number of enrollees would balance the funding available.  Anyone else would be out of luck or would have to find other sources of support.  I give Mr. Schwarzenegger credit for proposing a solution.  It led me to wonder about other services.

For example, the City of Los Angeles is chronically short of money.  The only tax that the city can realistically increase is the sales tax.  The sales tax in California is now about nine percent, the highest in the nation.  A measure is on the March 5 ballot to increase that tax by one half of one percent.  There is much opposition to the increase.  If the measure fails, perhaps the City will have to adopt Governor Schwarzenegger's plan.  Let everyone sign up for police and fire protection.  Those who sign up early will be protected.  The others will have to get police and fire protection from other sources, or do without.
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After reading my post, it occurred to me that there are other ways of setting priorities for government services. One way is to provide service only to persons who have lived in the city or county for a specified time. Thus, one would become eligible for taxpayer funded police services after five years of living in a particular place. One could obtain services before that but one would have to pay the cost of each service.
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