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Column: Revenue Needed

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In the midst of the ice storm, Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether declared an emergency, which allowed the city to tap private contractors for assistance in dealing with all the damage. Now the mayor has held a press conference asking for volunteers to help with clean up.

Volunteerism is one of the noblest aspects of humanity. Anyone who is willing and able to volunteer for this effort should do so. Let’s be clear though, the city shouldn’t need volunteers. Effective city government is run on tax revenues, not goodwill.

There are many ways to raise tax revenue; it doesn’t have to come from a personal income tax, although many cities do it that way, or a property tax. Sales taxes should be avoided whenever possible because of their regressive effects.

The tax could take the shape of a fraction of a percent on business profits over a set level, say $125,000 or so. It wouldn’t negatively impact small business owners, or drastically impact the prices that we pay, but it would make a significant amount of money for the city.

Some of that money could sit in a rainy day account, and some of that money could be used to improve some woefully underfunded city services. Have you tried to get anywhere on a city bus lately? Probably not, because unless you are headed to a fairly short list of places and happen to live right next to a stop, you would find it awfully inconvenient to do so.

Obviously, ice storms with this sort of destructive capacity are a freak event and won’t occur every year, but strange things do happen pretty often. The notion that cities should function on a shoestring budget, raising only the minimum amount necessary to fund its basic services only leads to one thing; a city so incapable of operating effectively that it has to ask for charity.

Column: When the Weather is the News

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