Taxes – Unedited


This is my unedited Q&A with John Spina that formed the basis for his “Council candidate supports Budge tax” article in the 7/13/16 issue of the Jackson Hole News and Guide:

John Spina: I know most of you support the tax, but it would help to have an explanation of why or why not you endorse each of the proposals.

Whether you support it or not, how will you go about gaining support for your position and try to ensure the outcome your looking for?

If the SPET is not passed in August, how would you go about funding stabilization efforts for the budge landslide knowing that Walgreens is unlikely to fully participate?

In terms of the general sales tax, what specific projects would you propose the town fund with the money? If you don’t support it, how would you go about funding housing and transportation projects?

Similarly, if the general sales tax is not passed how would you fund housing and transportation projects? What is the next step? Property tax?

Judd Grossman:

Budge Slide:

I’m still deliberating about the Budge Slide SPET tax proposal. I understand that the hillside has been weakened by human activity for decades, but the Town still hasn’t made a clear and compelling case for why it is the responsibility of taxpayers to fix the slide. 

Here are my questions:

Are the private sector engineers who signed off on the plan for building Walgreens liable for malpractice?

Is the Town legal team aggressively fighting for the taxpayers’ interests in this matter?

What are the real actuarial odds of the slide creating catastrophic damage to Broadway?

If the taxpayers pay up front to fix the slide will the Town be able to clawback the money once the courts decide who is liable?

Do we understand what went wrong with government oversight of this project, and have we taken steps to make sure that any errors aren’t repeated in the future?

The SPET ballot process is the perfect venue for these concerns to be discussed and resolved. Which begs the question: Why are the Town and County killing SPET after August, and replacing it with a General Excise Tax Increase that has none of the accountability of SPET? How will we pay for these kinds of unexpected big ticket expenses in the future without SPET?

General Excise Tax increase:

I am against the General Excise Tax increase. The tax increase is being touted as a solution to our housing and traffic problems, but is actually just a doubling down on past failed policies.

The way to make a real difference in our workforce housing problem is to implement a Workforce Housing Overlay in the walkable urban commercial core. In the Workforce Housing Overlay there will be significant density bonuses for employment based deed restricted housing. The units will be limited in size and have no parking requirement. The Workforce Housing Overlay that I am proposing will allow employers and employees the opportunity to take care of their own housing without massive public subsidies that require a General Excise Tax increase.

The way to make a real difference in our traffic problem is to avoid expanding market rate commercial and market rate residential zoning rights. We also need to focus new workforce housing into the walkable urban commercial core, and allow the traffic engineers to optimize, connect and expand our roads. START can be expanded incrementally based on demand rather than the current “build it and they will ride” policy that is leading to a lot of empty buses and wasted money. 

Defeating the General Excise Tax increase and leaving SPET in place will allow us to use SPET for targeted housing and transportation capital projects such as public sector employee housing, and the purchase of buses and vans for START.

The General Excise Tax increase is a big money grab by local government. There is no guarantee that it will be spent on transportation and housing, and since it is based on the flawed Integrated Transportation and Workforce Housing Action Plans there is very little chance that it will make a significant difference in our traffic and housing woes. This tax increase is being sold in a misleading way to the public in the name of “we have to do something” about housing and traffic, but spending hundreds of millions of dollars to give lip service to these very important issues is very expensive political theater, and interferes with our pursuit of real solutions.

Direct public subsidies of private sector workforce housing is corporate welfare, and at the rate of $100,000 to $400,000 in cash subsidies per unit we will waste millions of dollars and barely scratch the surface of our deficit of thousands of workforce housing units. 

START is a useful component of our transportation plan, but spending over $100 million so that START can at best handle 3% of valley traffic is not a good return on investment.

By displacing SPET with a General Excise Tax increase the community will lose a popular and valuable way to fund big ticket items. For over 30 years SPET has allowed the community to vote on each proposal. This is a powerful democratic process that compels government to convince us that there is solid coherent reasoning for how our hard earned money is spent.