Every time I hear a politician or commentator say that any infinitesimal tax increase will "kill jobs," "make people leave" or "drive away business," I just want to scream.
The first thing I want to scream is, "Prove it!" Provide some statistics to back up this claim. Show that people move out in droves when taxes go up. Connecticut instituted a state income tax in 1991. Did Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan suddenly become ghost towns? Not the last time I checked.
Speaking of our wealthy neighbors, people who live in towns like Greenwich do so because that's the kind of town they want to live in, knowing full well the taxes they are going to be paying. Westchester has similarly high taxes (higher, actually), but look at what you get for the money: good schools, safe towns, etc. Let's be frank: if we want these things, we gotta pay for them. Where, traditionally, are the best public schools? In towns with high incomes and relatively high taxes. New Jersey has pretty high taxes, but it also has one of the highest per capita incomes in the country. Why? Because people will live where they want to live or where the jobs are, not just where they'll pay the least in taxes.
Sure, some businesses might search around for the best tax situation they can find, but that search is usually slanted by the ridiculous deals that cities and states throw out there to lure large companies (who all too often meet the minimum requirements of their deals and then skip town as soon as possible). And if low taxes are the main determinant for business location, why are so many global powerhouses located in such high-tax cities as New York and Los Angeles? Because businesses need to be where the people they want to employ are, or near other members of their industry, or near transportation (airports, trains, etc.).
If taxes were the main motivator for choice of residence, then wouldn't everyone live in low-tax states like Tennessee and Florida? Again, people live where they do for a variety of reasons, and while I'm sure some people do look at the tax situation when looking to put down roots, how much influence can that really have in their decision-making process?
Well, I'm glad you asked! I did a completely unscientific survey of some friends, colleagues and relatives, wherein I asked them to name the top five reasons they live where they do.
I received responses from 17 people, and the most popular answers were proximity to work; being near family; and affordability (housing prices). People also cited wanting to be near culture; good schools; proximity to water; good restaurants; they grew up there; and convenient transportation.
Four people did cite lower taxes or the absence of a state income tax, but one Florida resident mentioned that although Florida has no state income tax, it does have lots of local taxes. However, taxes were clearly not the overwhelming factor that some politicians would have you believe.
Yes, it sucks when your taxes go up, but just like when the prices of gas, movie tickets and airline travel go up, we grumble a little bit, then we get used to it, and then we move on. Remember how much pain and suffering opponents said the 5¢ deposit on water bottles was going to cause? Yeah...
Honestly, can you imagine anybody saying, "Honey, we're going to have to pay the state an addition fifty bucks this year. Pack up the house. I'm renting a truck and we're moving"?
Heck, there was even an article recently about how the states neighboring Illinois were gleeful about a (GASP!) 2% increase in Illinois' state income tax. Here's the article: Neighboring states glad to see Illinois raise taxes, and here's a quote: "The idea of competing on state tax rates is hopelessly out of date," said Ed Morrison, economic policy advisor at the Purdue Center for Regional Development. "It demonstrates that political leadership is really out of step with what the global competitive realities are."
Listen, I'd love to pay less in taxes, and of course I want to see every level of government streamlined and made more efficient, but I also realize that the services we need, want and demand aren't free. So please, let's all stop listening to this annoying scare tactic and tell our politicians to get to work fixing real problems.
(Maybe if giant corporations like Fairfield-based General Electric paid more than a whopping $0 in taxes, we wouldn't be in such a mess to begin with.)
Begin typing scathing comments.......now.