12 August 2009

A municipal tax grab

The draft paratransit report for the City of St. John’s proposes a series of new tax grabs to pay for the system.

And deputy mayor Ron Ellsworth – also running for mayor in this fall’s municipal election – wants the whole thing in place before voting takes places:

Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth said that, in some way, the report would be revised to incorporate the concerns, but acknowledged that everything needs to be done by mid-September, before the municipal elections.

The report proposes:

-   a new 2.5 cent per litre tax on gasoline sold within the City of St. John’s which would produce an estimated $10 million annually,

-  a new surcharge of motor vehicle registrations for residents of St. John’s that would bring in an estimated $500,000 annually,

-  a new surcharge on both parking fees and parking fines that would bring in an additional $150,000 annually,

-  a new surcharge on taxi licenses that would generate an estimated $180,000 annually.

Having the provincial government pay the full cost of health-related transfers – something Ellsworth was talking up last January  - would bring in about $300,000 annually.  There was no public talk back then about more “creative” ways of sucking cash from taxpayer’s pockets.

Now all this might be a set of good ideas but really, there’s something fishy about the unseemly haste being display by the current council.

After all, this is the same crew that last time around busily assured everyone before the election that the Wells-Coombs Memorial Money Pit was in the black – at last – and then let us all know after the voting was done and counted that the whole thing was drowning in red ink.  The thing continues to flounder.

The paratransit system may need more money but there’s no reason to quickly and quietly grant the crowd running Tammany at Gower the right to suck an additional $10 million out the pockets of taxpayers in the city.

Let’s have way more information and discussion before this little idea gets anywhere near implemented.

Incidentally, there’s nothing about this issue on Ellsworth campaign website.




Anonymous said...

They were only recommendations by the consultants, as solutions to find funds to offset increased cost. This is a draft report. Which again was only approved as a draft only? None of the recommendations have the ability to be implemented by council as only the house of assembly has the authority to implement such taxation.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Yes, Anonymous as I noted , it is a proposal.

However, Ellsworth is apparently pushing to have the proposal accepted by and in place before the fall election.

The provincial government has to approve the finance measures but since they'd actually keep the City from looking for provincial cash, I am thinking there'd be no problem with getting the propsal accepted in toto...

if Ellsworth and other councilors manage to slide a $10 plus million tax grab through while people aren't looking.

Anonymous said...

Gas went up 4 cents a liter today so why not a 2.5 cent tax for disabled transportation initiatives. I think it should be a provincial wide tax. Some taxation is very worth while.

Edward G. Hollett said...

A government price fixing scheme just boosted prices in Newfoundland and Labrador.

But if we assume for the sake of argument it was driven by market forces, then that's why the prices went up: supply and demand.

However, there's something radically different in having a bunch of people cook up a bunch of tax grabs and try to quietly slide it through before anyone has a chance to examine it in detail.

If people want to suck money out of my pocket through government action, I'd like to be assured the money will;

- go where intended;
- will be spent appropriately in a way I can verify; and,
- that it is really the only way to pay for it.

You see there may well be other sources of revenue that should support paratransit. There may be another way of organizing the whole affair such that residents of St. John's don't bear the burden of paying for the entire service.

Tax grabs are often the easy way out for politicians and bureaucrats just as public money is the easy answer for people who don't want to try and do it themselves in the business sector.

Let's not have something pushed through without much more public discussion.

Burke said...

While I often disagree with this blog, in this case I am in total agreement.

Mile One is a complete disgrace, and the duplicitous way in which the council hides behind the paper board they themselves construct is embarrassing.

I have little faith that Ellsworth, O'Keefe and Co. really understand the long-term implications of these and any other taxes. They have proven time and time again that reaction is their only real policy. When people complain, they collectively hide behind the wisdom of staff, who after all are really only responsible for acting on the council's wishes.

Mr. O'Keefe just wants everyone to like him. Mr. Ellsworth wants to be in charge of something. Neither has shown a lick of real vision, and handing them a major tax decision weeks before an election is lunacy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. The agenda and proposal for any tax is not necessarily true to serve its purpose.

You said "You see there may well be other sources of revenue that should support paratransit. There may be another way of organizing the whole affair such that residents of St. John's don't bear the burden of paying for the entire service."

Should our conservative federal government spend more or provincial etc? Infrastructure.
Should the paratransit ride program institute a volunteer and user nonprofit charitable organization like Daffodil place, “Wheels for life”?
Should the private sector have the ability to help adjust the regulations to possibly offer partial services to part of the client list while receiving a subsidy? Mini van, Single unit service. Transportation services for vision loss, medical treatments, Ride to work programs etc.

Paratransit is having it’s issues but It is a essential service I only hope no politician will take advantage of it as a tax grab, a tax garb will only create a stigma situation towards it's users.
We must Embrace this service and make it the best transportation service possible. The freedom it provides to users is immeasurable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, makes just as much sense as Water meters. Another tax grab. They say our water conservation measures have been effective but the reality is you can not wash your car or water your flowers. or even clean the exterior of your house. All summer maintenance things for a home owner and consumer.
Taxing or fuel consumption in support of the paratransit system is just another water meter. Why is it that we always sell out for short term gain and long term pain in the necks? No vision, no reality of the mess they are creating.

Anonymous said...

City Halls main responsibility is to provide services to its citizens. Para Transit is a necessary service just like Metro Bus.

I am not in favour of trying to sneak this taxation through for expediency sake. Ed is right that it needs to be studied.

I am sure that if council got its head screwed on right and stopped trying to capitulate (and get re-elected) to every Tom, Dick and Harry who wanted a couple of bucks for a festival, charity, sports team or choir to travel somewhere we would be halfway to our goal. And if that savings were combined with a more efficent delivery of existing services than we might be able to afford a world class para transit system within our existing revenue stream.