Alas, Sales Tax Rise Necessary

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I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

— Winston Churchill

Odds are, this week you got your state sales tax ballot in the mail. We hope you will get up now, check the “yes” box and mail it immediately.

We wish we could think of better advice. But, alas, a dismaying accumulation of blunders has left we voters with no choice at all but to do the right thing.

We understand all the objections. No doubt, state spending rose too fast in the good times. No question, we’d rather cut taxes than raise them in a recession. No argument, the sales tax is regressive and unfair in a state with such a low income tax. No dispute, the Legislature shirked its responsibility for a year in refusing to deal effectively with the crisis.

But as Winston Churchill observed: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

So the choice has come down to this: Shall we groan, brace ourselves and accept a 1 cent increase in the sales tax for a year or inflict damage to our schools, universities and fellow citizens that will take years to repair.

Just this week, we reported on how rejection of the temporary sales tax increase could kill ASU’s plan to build a campus in Payson. Today, a story details the terrible impact on Payson schools. You’ll also find a story pointing out that 30 percent of Gila County residents rely on the state’s endangered AHCCCS program for their health care — mostly children, the unemployed and terribly sick elders.

We cannot abandon them now.

Certainly, we hope that when the crisis has passed, voters will insist on reforms to halt this awful boom-bust budget cycle.

But that’s for later. Right now, the landing craft are heading for the beach and we must press on. So we must approve the temporary sales tax increase and do right by our children and the most vulnerable amongst us. Just as Winston Churchill’s generation shouldered their burdens that we might live in peace, so we must make our sacrifices for those who rely upon us.

As Winston put it: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

High rise rules balanced

Seven-story buildings in Payson? Scary. Sobering. Unsettling. Fortunately, it turns out there’s less to the town’s overhaul of the rules for buildings taller than three stories than meets the eye. The revisions in the rules concerning high rises won council approval, after a long and intermittently confusing process.

Lots of people worried the new rules would encourage a rash of seven-story buildings in town once the economy rolls the stone away from the tomb of the construction industry — forever changing the rural, forested character of our own little piece of paradise.

However, it now looks like some of those fears were stoked by a misleading summary of the changes included in the early drafts of the high rise revisions. That early staff report had the effect of exaggerating the real scope of the changes. In fact, the revised ordinance spells out a lot of restrictions left vague under the old rules. The new ordinance will certainly make it easier on developers who want to build five- and six-story buildings, by giving the planning staff initial power of approval in the right zones. The changes will clarify the restrictions on buildings taller than three stories.

Neither the new or the old ordinance set upper limits on height — providing builders get a zone change and go through the many hearings involved in approval of a planned unit development. If anything, the new ordinance imposes more restrictions than the old one.

As a final, crucial protection against a high-rise monster that would damage our treasured, small-town feel, any protest would trigger the need for a final approval by a supermajority of six out of seven council members.

So we think that the final result provides needed opportunities for developers and essential protections for residents.

Town planners say maybe only half a dozen parcels in town can meet all the requirements for a six- or seven-story building. So the ordinance could open the door for a convention hotel or college dorms in the handful of parcels where such a building wouldn’t impact existing, residential development.

Seven-story buildings in Payson?

Careful. Calculated. Controlled.

We feel much better.

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