Cool your jets on utility tax | Editorial

We all want cleaner water and to better protect the environment, but now is not the time to impose a new clean water utility tax on the property owners of Island County.

Nonetheless, the three Democratic commissioners this week decided to head in that direction, setting aside $20,000 so lawyers can write a proposed ordinance. That’s not chicken feed at a time when the county needs every dollar it can muster, and it’s only a start if the effort continues.

A few years year ago the former Republican commissioners were talking about a tax of $5 or $10 per parcel with revenue mainly going to help fund the unpopular new mandatory septic system inspection program. But the present commissioners have a vague but grander vision, perhaps levying a fee in the range of $40 per parcel to create a fund for a number of pet projects, including restoring the hydrogeologist, salmon protection and shellfish recovery. Once the fee mechanism is set up, department heads will see it as a fat Santa Claus that can fund any number of projects that would otherwise go wanting in this economy. It will be hard for the commissioners to keep a lid on it even if they so desire.

The voters simply are not in the mood to pay more money for government, as proved by the overwhelming rejection of the county’s Proposition 1 in the August election. The commissioners said before the election they would live with the voters’ decision and budget accordingly, not look for other ways to tax the population.

The economy continues to be in a state of crisis. Trillions of dollars of wealth have disappeared. People are struggling to keep their jobs and their homes. This is no time for expensive new programs in Island County or anywhere else. Elected officials have to cool their jets and live within their means until the economy turns around. It’s what everyone else is doing.

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