Check out our opinion article on RAP taxes published in the Daily Herald on October 10, 2015. While we specifically reference Provo and Lehi’s proposals, the same principles apply to any other entity that is proposing the tax.
Residents of Provo and Lehi are each facing two tax hikes on the November ballot this year. One is a sales tax increase to fund transportation and mass transit projects. The second is a sales tax increase to fund the recreational, arts and parks (RAP) programs in each city.
The RAP tax would amount to an increase of 1/10th of a cent in sales taxes on non-food items. Provo has estimated the increase will yield $1 million annually in new taxes for the city, while Lehi expects to receive $750,000 from the tax hike.
Voters should reject the new RAP taxes.
When applied, principles of sound budgeting ensure elected officials have the flexibility they need to allocate resources where they are needed most. This new tax would prevent elected officials from making those decisions because money raised from the RAP tax is placed in a lockbox to pay for non-essential programs in the city budget.
The money collected from the RAP tax cannot be used for any other general fund purpose.
For example, when the next economic downturn occurs and city revenues drop, elected officials should be able to reprioritize spending to ensure funding of crucial city services such as law enforcement. Instead of being able to draw upon taxes that are already being collected, elected officials won’t have the option to open up that RAP tax lockbox to pay for the essential government services. Instead, they will have to look at raising taxes.
By approving the RAP tax, it would tie the hands of elected officials as they make crucial budget decisions, and place recreation and parks programs as a protected function of government ahead of law enforcement, streets and sanitation.
Next, sales taxes are regressive. They bear a heavier burden on those who are least able to pay. Young families and those on fixed incomes would see a higher percentage of their income taken to pay this tax to fund non-essential city services.
Taxpayers should reject the RAP tax on the Provo and Lehi ballots and call upon the city councils and mayors to let these programs compete for resources in the cities’ general fund.
Provo and Lehi taxpayers are already overburdened with taxes as they are seeing their property taxes raised for schools and an increase in the gas tax. They do not need another $1.75 million taken out of their pockets to pay for programs that could already be funded through proper prioritization in the general fund.
Hesterman is vice president of the Utah Taxpayers Association.
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