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The Tentacle


June 9, 2011

Having It Both Ways

Blaine R. Young

It is a question which has been asked and debated seemingly everywhere, for many years: Does residential growth pay for itself or not?

 

There are people on both sides of the issue that can all provide plenty of data to support their arguments either way. Those in the home building industry will say that growth not only pays for itself, but pays for more and provides excess dollars to the government’s revenue stream. Those on the other side, the so-called “no-growthers” or “smart-growthers,” claim just the opposite. They say that the costs associated with new residents outstrip the revenues they provide.

 

Well, believe it or not, I am here to say that both sides are right!

 

I am sure you are saying to yourself that “Blaine is playing both sides of the track.” Well, that is not the case.

 

I strongly agree with the builders that new growth and new residents do pay for themselves provided government keeps programs, grants, salaries, benefits, etc., under control. And I also strongly agree that new growth and new residents do not pay for themselves if government is intent on providing these new residents (and all existing residents) an ever increasing level of government services through a bloated bureaucracy.

 

In other words, before you can answer the question of whether or not residential growth pays for itself, you must first answer the question of how much money per resident does government intend to spend on social and other programs.

 

This is particularly true today, in that – unlike the old days – the government usually does not pay any of the costs providing the infrastructure for the new residents. Until 40 or so years ago it was common practice for the government to bear the cost of extending streets, utility lines, etc., into a new development, the theory being that the user fees and tax revenues provided by the new residents would more than cover the costs of the infrastructure. As we all know, those days are over.

 

Now the developer builds the streets, buries the pipes, and even pays many, many thousands of dollars in fees to hook each home up to public services. The government gets the new residents essentially “turn-key.” If, under these circumstances, the taxes and fees collected from new residents in this county do not pay the cost of providing services for them, the problem is not with the new residents. It is with the excessively expensive and bloated social programs which have been tacked on to our county budget year after year for the last two decades.

 

Of course, when a Board of County Commissioners comes in and finally recognizes this problem and attempts to do things on both ends of the problem, namely cutting unnecessary and unwarranted programs out of the budget while at the same time reducing fees and regulations on new business, such as the building industry, the commissioners are criticized left and right.

 

The current criticism du jour is that we are rushing to cut the budget and to cut fees and regulations. Isn’t that ironic? For years all we heard was that that government cannot accomplish anything, and now we are criticized for moving too quickly.

 

And to all the people who complain that we are taking action without enough “consideration,” or without enough “public input,” I ask you how many meetings are enough? Two meetings, three, four, five? And how many people have to show up at a meeting to count as “meaningful public input?” Ten, 20, 30 or 100 people?

 

You know the drill: Pack the room, scare the elected officials and they back down for fear of losing votes at the next election. Well, I want no part of that, and that is why I have said I will only serve one term as a county commissioner and that I want to be part of the solution, not of the problem.

 

Tough decisions have been made for the FY2012 budget, and will continue to be required over the next three years. I will look closely at every issue, will listen to public comment, and in the end I will vote my conscience on what I think is best for the citizens and taxpayers of Frederick County. I am looking to my children’s future, not to some election a few years away.

 

Agree with me if you will; disagree if you will. But in following this philosophy with every vote I have taken to date, and with every vote I intend to take in the future, rest assured that I sleep very well at night.

 

blaine@blaineyoung.com

 



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