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No such thing as ‘budget surplus’ for some Democrats

Democrat Pat Tucker recently wrote she cannot agree with me that a grocery sales tax elimination would benefit all Idahoans. Interestingly, House Democrats are currently working to repeal the grocery sales tax. These Democrats know providing a 6% tax break on food helps low-income earners the most because these folks spend a larger share of their income on food.

But Pat reasons if a low-income earner avoids a 6% tax on purchasing $10 worth of flour, then that’s .60 cents less available for paying teachers, funding early childhood education, funding programs like Head Start and that’s .60 cents less to spend fixing, maintaining and repairing bridges.

Like too many well-intentioned but misguided central planning Democrats, Pat appears obsessed with spending your money on her favorite government programs. Pat and Democrats like her simply believe they know best. They’re even willing to pick the pockets of low-income earners provided that money goes to fund their favorite government programs.

Democrats who think like Pat get excited at the prospect of picking winners and losers. But here’s the problem: There’s never an end to the demands these kinds of Democrats can make for another government program. Today it’s education and bridges. Tomorrow it’s affordable housing and abortion funding. The only thing that limits funding new programs is the imagination of people whose hubris leads them to think they’re smarter than you about spending your money. To these folks, this means bloated government is always the winner, and you’re always the loser.

A striking difference between Democrats and Republicans is how we view you. In Pat’s world, “Repeal of the grocery tax would drain the general fund by $105 million annually.” She focuses on what big government spenders lose. In a Republican world, repeal of the grocery tax would return $105 million annually to taxpayers who earned the money in the first place. Republicans focus on what you gain.

Republicans also focus on the immorality of the tax. While Republicans claim taxing people on their food is immoral because people must eat, Pat offers weak arguments in favor of continuing the grocery tax.

She says repeal of the grocery tax would mean no tax “collected from out of state shoppers” which is “significant when tourism picks back up.” Actually, repeal of the grocery tax would mean Idahoans would no longer go out of state to buy groceries. They do so now because every bordering state doesn’t tax groceries like Idaho. And I don’t remember a single time I’ve ever seen tourist buses in the Albertson’s parking lot.

Pat also argues the grocery tax is not really regressive because the wealthy spend far more on groceries than the poor. A regressive tax is one applied uniformly and takes a larger percentage of income from low-income earners than from high-income earners. A 6% sales tax on $10 worth of flour is the same whether paid by a wealthy or a poor person. The fact that the wealthy and the poor pay the same tax rate makes the tax by definition regressive.

I do agree with Pat on one thing. Calling the phrase “budget surplus” a misnomer is absolutely true — as long as there are Democrats like Pat whose imaginations for the next government program in need of funding provide the only limit on more government spending.

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