To the editor:
Several weeks ago, I wrote a letter asking the tax limitation people to identify which programs in state and local governments they want cut. Greg Beesley, chairman of the Tax Limitation Coalition, has now written two letters attacking the numbers I used and stating that they were wrong.He suggested that I should have been more "precise" and "careful." He also suggested that his numbers which differed from mine by "hundreds of million of dollars" prove that citizens cannot trust "appointed officials," and that it represented our attitude of "close enough for government work."
Setting the record straight is easy. Greg Beesley's numbers are wrong by several hundred million dollars. The numbers he is using includes budgets of state and federal revenues, as well as other kinds of revenue totally unrelated to the proposed cuts of sales, income, and other state taxes.
If sales or other state taxes are cut, he suggests that we can cut programs funded by federal revenue to offset the cuts. For example, I keep hearing that we can consolidate the Department of Natural Resources, Community and Economic Development, and Agriculture and save $40 million in sales tax.
The budget of these three departments for the last fiscal year was $123 million. This budget included $46 million in sales tax revenues, $31 million in federal revenues, and $46 million from collections like big game licenses, fishing licenses, park use fees, etc.
If we cut the $40 million as suggested, it assumes that the feds will continue to give us the $32 million as suggested, it assumes we will continue on with business as usual. Only the worst accountant would subtract $40 million from $46 million and call it consolidation. I call it elimination. Elimination of programs like insect infestation, dairy and meat inspection, community assistance, fine arts, state history, state library, state parks, dam safety, etc.
The trouble is, Mr. Beesley won't believe me or anyone else tied to the government, but I wonder if it is too much to ask for him to hire his own "independent" accountant to look at the numbers and give the public some real facts on where he would cut. After all, if the tax limitation initiatives pass, the cuts will be made somewhere!
Gordon L. Crabtree
State Director of Finance