Taxes can benefit all of us

Published 8:29 am Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dear Editor,

Let’s face it: nobody likes paying taxes. Viewing our pay slips, we get upset how much has disappeared to the taxman. We assume taxes are bad. If taxes go down, it’s like winning the lottery and unthinkable that any taxes go up.   

Yet we forget that we depend on government for our security and safety, for the education of children, for services that the whole community needs (like roads and bridges), and for the protection and enhancement of our environment (like parks and recreation). These don’t happen without money. And that means taxes. Taxes provide what our communities must have for all its members to thrive.

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Because paying taxes is so unpopular and we take the services that government provides for granted, Kentucky politicians have avoided raising taxes like the plague.  Instead they cut services, delay repairs and improvements, and Kentucky gets itself into a total mess with its pension obligations. Again and again, elementary and secondary education budgets are cut. Cuts to public universities have made higher education easily affordable only to the richest and forced the rest to take on crippling debt. This debt is a drag on the futures of young people and the health of a consumer economy. Our courts and jails are jammed and we don’t have the funds to meet the opioid crisis.

We talk about how to grow the economy. How will our communities attract new jobs? We know that companies thinking of coming to Kentucky put more stock in having a healthy, trained work force than tax incentives. We are persuaded to give money away but are not willing to invest in what really brings jobs. This doesn’t make sense. Kentucky’s tax code is loaded with innumerable loopholes. We need to be willing to rein in these vested interests and invest in our commonwealth’s future. We should look at the big picture, not just our short-term self-interest.

Here are some novel ideas. Maybe it’s time to consider that paying our fair share of taxes is a citizen’s responsibility — a duty it’s bad to avoid. It’s even a way we participate in making Kentucky great. We should start urging our politicians to find the money to pay for what Kentucky desperately needs. Income tax rates for the wealthiest are lower than those for low wage earners. Is that just? Let’s talk about this. Our future in on the line.

Margaret Gardiner