Some local officials should certainly be questioning their judgment this week, in having tried to foist off on Alamance County’s voters an “opportunity” to impose a higher sales tax on themselves – for the fourth unsuccessful time.
All five of Alamance County’s commissioners should be ashamed of themselves for having tried to get the populace to increase sales taxes when these same voters have turned down the measure three times previously: in 2010, 2012, and 2018.
Inasmuch as the people’s most recent previous answer, in 2018, was to say “no” by “only” 54.38 percent (down from over 70 percent on the two previous attempts), officials apparently thought the fourth time might prove to the charm to persuade voters to impose the higher tax on themselves.
Instead, primary voters upped their margin of disapproval – to almost 60 percent.
Commendations to commissioner Tim Sutton who at least voted against scheduling the sales tax referendum in March (Sutton argued that such significant referendum questions should only be posed on the fall general election ballot). But he, Bill Lashley, Eddie Boswell, Steve Carter, and board chairman Amy Scott Galey all thought having a referendum in 2020, this soon after the last defeat in 2018, was just a nifty idea.
Just how out of step the commissioners were can be seen from the breadth of the defeat of the measure this week. Only about a half dozen precincts that voted for the increase were the exception to an otherwise almost 2-to-1 defeat across the other 31 (of 37) precincts in the county.
But the commissioners were not the only ones wildly out of step with the people’s overwhelming opposition to the higher sales tax. Those who want to be their successors were also equally out of step.
Every county commissioner candidate – the five Democrats and, surprisingly, all seven Republicans – told The Alamance News last month, in response to the newspaper’s biennial issues questionnaire, that they favored the ¼-cent sales tax hike.
Two of them – Republican John Paisley and Democrat Henry Vines – said they would not have gone along with scheduling the vote for the March 3 primary date, but they nonetheless supported the underlying referendum question.
We’re pleased that the people’s authority in self-governance has prevailed again.
We suspect most voters were suspicious – and we would add, rightly so – that neither the present nor future commissioners would do enough to lower the property tax to offset the new sales tax (as the current crop of commissioners said they would do) or, even more importantly, keep the property tax at the new lower rate for very long if they ever did, in fact, follow through on their pledge to reduce it.
Voters need to be vigilant still. Some Democratic county commissioner candidates said in response to the newspaper’s questionnaire that if the referendum was defeated that they would work to get it back on the ballot as soon as possible for yet a fifth time.
Meanwhile, most Republicans who won their primary said they would not be in a hurry to do so. In fact, both Bill Lashley and Pamela Tyler Thompson said she would not support another vote on the matter at any time.
At any rate, voters can congratulate themselves for their fiscal conservatism – and for the derivative benefit that by having defeated this newest potential tax source, it will require county officials, elected officeholders and bureaucrats, to think twice before recommending more spending or higher property taxes to go along with it. The people have spoken, and their will should, finally, be respected.