CID picks students and low-income households to be losers with new tax

In an interview in the Columbia-Missourian today, I’m quoted discussing the negatives of the proposed new 1/2 cent sales tax being pushed by the Community Improvement District in downtown Columbia. I particularly want to bring to your attention this excellent quote from yours truly:

“It’s absolutely ludicrous to me that we want to impose another sales tax downtown,” he said. “An extra five or 10 dollars a month makes a difference to some people.”

While people on the CID board like attorney Skip Walther and executive director Carrie Gartner might take home handsome salaries, many residents in and around the downtown area do not. As a former university student, I can particularly attest to the fact that many students live on extremely limited budgets from which they must finance their educations and living expenses. Moreover, facilities like Paquin Towers are home to numerous disabled and low-income elderly people, and the area around downtown is also home to numerous low-income households (I particularly remember the Section 8 Housing in the vicinity of Lyon Street, where I lived in 2006-2007).

A 1/2 cent sales tax increase may not feel like much to an attorney billing upwards of $200/hr, like Skip, or an executive director of a government entity making $60,000 a year, like Carrie. But for students scraping up the dimes and nickels and quarters together to get a cheap sandwich at Quintons or a solitary beer at the Heidelburg, that sales tax makes a difference. For the elderly veteran on disability who spends $100 on groceries at the Mini Mart a week, an extra five or or ten dollars might make the difference between going hungry or eating on that one night a month when it matters.

At some margin, we should consider the impact of these kinds of taxes on the people who are the poorest and most politically weak. In this case, I see a large population of people who are going to be marginally worse off for benefits that are nebulous, ill-defined, and carry no real definition that we can hold anyone accountable for. We can and should do better with our public policies, and I urge the CID to consider this argument and withdraw its ballot proposition.

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