No More Taxes

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Let’s see if we can even remember all the tax hikes in the pipeline. For instance, the Arizona Legislature asked voters to approve an additional 1 cent on the sales tax. Then lawmakers changed the formulas for income taxes, so wage earners will pay more.

Phoenix raised its sales tax and Payson is poised to raise its property tax to maximum levels.

Meanwhile, the Payson Unified School District got voter approval for a budget override, which will increase property taxes.

Oh, and now the county wants to increase property taxes by 2 percent to raise an extra $500,000 in revenue rather than spending some of its $12 million reserve fund.

Other fees and taxes floating around out there have gone up as well, but we’ve kind of lost track of them all. And this does not include the increase taxes President Obama and Congress want to impose to reduce the frightening deficit. Proposals include increased taxes on ordinary income, dividends and maybe even an entirely new tax, a so-called value added tax — which is really a hidden sales tax.

So here’s the question: Who’s suppose to pay those rising tax rates with a stubborn 10 percent unemployment rate and stagnant recovery? By several accounts, more than 50 percent of our personal income ends up in a government agency’s hands. Government keeps spending more and more. So where will it stop?

We know times are tough, just ask the business owner who had to close down his store because consumers don’t have the money to spend or the employee who no longer has a job or still employed person who took a 10 percent pay cut just to keep his or her job.

Elected officials, at all levels of government, treat long-suffering taxpayers as their hapless cash cows. Need more money — just raise property taxes, sales taxes, fees and income taxes. Who cares that the wages for the average working guy have not increased. And what about the retirees on a fixed income? Worse yet, what about those retirees whose savings were wiped out by the stock market crash now doing with smaller dividends and paying higher taxes?

It is time for governments to quit adding new programs and wasting money, reasoning that one more “small” increase won’t hurt the homeowner. The problem is it is not just one small tax increase — figure it up — it is a lot of small increases that make a big difference in many people’s lives.

Russian roulette with our future

Fire season has overtaken us, once again.

Yesterday, a brush fire closed Payson’s vital link to the Valley, as smoke drifted across the Beeline. Meanwhile, not even a wet winter and a late snowpack could slow the Schultz Fire, which exploded across 15,000 acres near Flagstaff. If that’s not enough, the Paradise Fire has burned more than 5,000 acres near Alpine and the Eagle Rock Fire gobbled up another 5,000 near Williams.

Once more, we’re all playing Russian roulette with our future — pressing the gun to our temple and waiting for the bullet.

Against that backdrop, 40 forest advocates gathered in Pine this week to figure out how to use a reinvented timber industry to thin millions of acres of dangerously overgrown forest. The complicated, hopeful, often frustrating effort represents our best hope of averting calamity. Decades of ecological blundering have increased tree densities from 50 per acre to 1,000 per acre across most of the region, so that ultimate killer fire is only a matter of time.

Unfortunately, the group faces daunting economic and bureaucratic obstacles.

A much smaller scale effort in the White Mountains offers a cautionary case in point. The Forest Service offered a coalition of timber companies a long-term contract to thin 150,000 acres and turn the saplings and brush into fence posts, pallets and fuel pellets. The Forest Service agreed to pay some $1,000 per acre subsidy initially and promised the original 5,000 acres-per-year contract would grow to 20,000.

In some ways, the project proved a great success. A dozen new businesses provide 300 jobs and have developed markets that could absorb wood from 18,000 acres each year.

One catch: The recession killed the wood products market, making it hard for the timber mills to do without the continued subsidy. Alas, the Apache-Sitgreaves Forests now says it can’t afford to thin more than 5,000 acres annually.

So we must continue our demented game of roulette — spending $3 million to fight a fire because we lacked the money to prevent it.

Fortunately, the determined coalition is determined to find a way to thin the forests before our time runs out.

We wish them Godspeed, for our fate depends on their success.

It certainly beats the current policy, as the smoke towers into the sky and hundreds flee their homes. How long can we get away with it? Load the gun, spin the cylinder, and pull the trigger. Click. Repeat.

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