May 03, 2007
Transparency in Taxation
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn introduced legislation today to provide Transparency in Taxation.
The legislation would require that every property taxpayer in the county receive an itemized statement showing where their property taxes are going. Currently, the many property owners who pay their taxes through their mortgage company don't receive such an itemized statement. The ordinance is here.
Dunn's proposal is obvious fairness. I encourage the Council to adopt it. People who pay taxes deserve readily available and comprehensible information on what they're paying for. The only real objection that I could imagine is that those who wish to keep raising taxes would prefer to head off any resistance by giving the voters less information about what they're already paying. But even though I've had my disagreements with the Democrats on the King County Council, I find it hard to believe they wouldn't support the basic transparency and fairness in this proposal.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at May 03, 2007
12:05 PM | Email This
1. Good move if he Democratic controlled council (DCC) approves it.
2. I'm sure this will be met with unanimous approval. Actually I hope that those that nix it are thoroughly exposed.
3. You get a breakdown of it when you don't pay it through your mortgage? I had no idea. I've always paid it with escrow through my monthly mortgage.
KC Council approving increasing transparency in taxation?
Not gonna' happen, gotta' keep the prols dumb and happy.
5. How about we take this one step further and require that every jurisdiction disclose exactly where each and every cent of State Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax is spent. It was only after I spent countless nights online digging through documents that I uncovered that the City of Tacoma had used these revenues to pay to rehab the Mayor's alley, Beautify Council person Kevin Phepps' and Bill Evans' Business Districts, Purchase banners for those business districts, buy the fake potted palm trees (made from scrap metal and pilings) and "on and on" that the City fessed up to this. By the way the City floated a levy for the express purpose of maintaining and renovating residential streets last year. Not one stinking dime of State Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax revenues taht Tacoma rec'd million$ per year of was spent maintaining residential streets. Oh and by the way council person Anderson had some of this money programmed to come her way untill we disclosed this. Oh that's right she didn't "know the vote she was casting would benefit her." Bull f*n sh*t, is all I have to say regarding that. I personally warned her of the fact that she would be required to make full disclosure if not recuse herself. It was not untill my friend disclosed her unethical behavior that she all of a sudden "got religion " and came clean. Oh yes and by teh way the News Bufoon was aware of this entire episode and said not a thing.
Snohomish County does this already. Twice a year, I receive a tax notice that gives me a basic breakdown:
There is a separate line that says how much of these taxes are "voter approved", though this number isn't detailed as to which (or a portion) of the taxes were voter approved. It doesn't always correlate to the schools, fire district or library numbers.
That said, it's way better than nothing.
I'm putting my money on the KC Council not passing it. They will say that compliance will be cost prohibitive and that they just don't have the man power (er, person power) to generate all the extra paperwork that will be needed.
Itemization would be responsible government and the KC council isn't really interested in that.
Either that or they'll simply kick the ball down the street.
Kitsap County - yours and everyone elses tax bill is available to view on line. (So is your, and everyone elses valuation history, tax history, permit history, etc.)
No paper involved here - no extra mailing costs.
A similar thing should be on every 'Transit Ticket.'
"You paid $1.25, total cost to transport you: $15, xx paid by City (xx Sales Tax, xx Hotel Tax), xx paid by County, xx paid by State, xx paid Federally."
fair idea. assumed payers had that info. heck--a grocery bill is better detailed. wait till KC people see the plethora of separate assessments, levies & authorities taxing them.
still, i surmise it will change nothing. look at the voters. re-electing the same people & programs. no cuts. no program sunsets. apathy.
now, only a detailed list of the thief's demands in place of one pointed at your snoot.
I wouldn't be surprised if some of the council Democrats whine about how this will further burden the "downtroddened" constituents they represent. Logically this should pass, but so far I haven't seen a whole lot of sense on the leftist side of the council.
I would also advocate breaking down gas and liquor prices so people can see how much is going to the governement. I can imagine there are those who would finally get a clue that the price at the pump isn't all the fault of the "evil" oil companies. Heck, while we are at it, let the hospitals have the chance once a year to have a full newspaper page devoted to how much uncompensated and undercompensated care is handed out. People might finally get a hint that the government sure is taking a lot and returning little.
have to hand it to the "evil medical field" like hospitals--sure--the $40 per aspirin is cause for fighting, but at least you see your bill in all its glory. if you pass or ignore it, it's your fault.
but give people a chance here with prop taxes to see EVERYTHING--after all, they are YOUR EMPLOYEES--don't you deserve a detailed travel voucher or likewise from your workers?
13. Seems like a waste of tax money. Anybody who cares can get a copy of the statement from their mortgage servicer
Transparent pricing is always a great idea. And breaking down taxes will remind people that their taxes enable government to do useful things.
The only question is whether enough people would bother to read this mail to be worth the cost of sending it. But since the original post implies that the county already sends it to some people, the cost of sending it to everyone should be modest.
Since property tax and homes are about one and the same, I have the following to add:
Anybody else see the breakdown in the cost of the home and how much of the cost is influenced by government regulations? Pretty, pretty scary.
Of course, there is the age old argument that if we raise taxes and regulations up enough, eventually the money will be taken from the developer and not the home buyer.
Personally I would reform the Counties online information system to be more user friendly. For probably the same cost as mailing information to hundreds of thousands of people you could improve access to all the information the County has from parcel search to property taxes. It's all there now, but often hard to access.
There is all sorts of information citizens should have access to, but that does not mean that we have to spend tax dollars mailing it to them. If someone doesn't care enough to take the tiniest amount of effort, then why should taxpayers spend money sending it to them.
I am all for making the greatest possible amount of information public, but there are far more efficient means to do so then sending out hundreds of thousands of letters.
It will never be adopted! This Council is dominated by the same party that took your car tab itemization away. Just pay the total, and forget what seeing where it goes.
One massive hike after another coming your way by Queen Christine and her gang of thieves...
I'm not buying the argument that this is a waste of tax dollars. I'll bet that a lot of people will realize how much they're paying in taxes after seeing this, and they'll be much less inclined to vote for new levies.
In the long run, I think that this'll me personally hundreds of dollars, and the rest of us millions. I wouldn't be surprised if the Democrats on the council try to supress this as much as possible without calling attention to it. They don't want to appear like they don't support our government sunshine laws.
19. SeattleR, people already know how much tax they're paying. Seeing it divided up into pieces on a statement won't change that. But the statements will help them see why they pay those taxes.
And while we're at it, let's do that for our federal taxes (and budget), which we all know is many orders of magnitude bigger than our county taxes.
This would eliminate the misconceptions that seem to have legs, like the hallunication that we spend 17% of the budget on foreign aid, when it is less than 1%. (Just for example.) Then we could do this for the state taxes/budget.
A way of forcing folks to actually spend that 5 minutes per year and KNOW something!
Does it include that liver transplant for a convicted felon!?
Oh joy!!! Glad I took myself off the donors list now! That goes for blood too! I want a say in what I pay with MY BLOOD!!! Or I will take it with me!
22. It'll never happen. It's too simple and elegant! The Democrats will never go for it. Too bad, because then we can all see how much money we spend to keep the Port of Seattle awash in cash.
23. It sounds too good to happen in King County. The Democrats are too tied to lawyer lobbies and besides it would be political suicide for them to go for it.
Dunn is another democrat in Republican clothes. When I saw him supporting this boondoggle 37 Billion dollar transportation bill he showed his true colors. Especially when he was side by side with Patterson in this effort.
It was Yuk and Yuk in my book!
25. I hope they do itemize. Then It will make it easier to track down actual expenditures. Makes searching for items and miss use of money easier. Will it show diversion of funds. No but it means that you can look harder in areas of interest. Not a perfect system but it will make it easier to follow the money trails that have been so hidden for so long. It can also be used to ask questions on how they are really using this money. Lets have fun with this data. You can see the % used from property tax. Look at the percentages spent in all these areas. Then look at the overall budget and see what percentage of money comming in comes from Property tax. You can then have a good idea of what pots are having funds diverted for other services beside what the voters voted for. Remember the old Car tab expense. Everything but roads was using that money.
Great, now demand transparency on how the taxes are spent.
If you knew how your tax dollars were being spent, you would stop paying.
Time for a real change, anyone stepping up?
Per my property tax bill, almost 19% of it goes to SnoCo roads.
On my car tabs bill, I have an RTA tax and a vehicle weight tax.
I pay the gas tax.
Now I understand that the Gov will sign a law allowing local counties (cities?) to add up to $20 more dollars to the tabs for more "road" stuff.
Plus, they want us to vote for $30 billion more in taxes for trains, buses, and toll roads?
Sunshine laws and total transparency is what is needed to see how "our" government spends our money. Where does all the money they take in really go?
Why not an automatically generated email. Low cost and useful.
But KC will reject as they do all sensible ideas. You don't need to know what they are doing with your tax dollars. They are the elite.
Why not an automatically generated email. Low cost and useful.
But KC will reject as they do all sensible ideas. You don't need to know what they are doing with your tax dollars. They are the elite.
Um, so you can see how tax dollars are spent, its called the budget. They put the whole thing online. Would you like them to mail that to you as well to save you the tremendous effort of visiting the website.
The reason that government doesn't work the way you want it to is not because of secrecy, its because you are in the minority.
So Giffy. I take it you love taxation. I bet you can't wait for the day that they just confiscate all of our pay, doling out to us what the elite think we need to live. Of course, that will not apply to 'them'.
I wonder Giffy, are you 'them'?
If the scum that run this state/King County keep it up, you wont be in the majority. In fact if you are too egregious, you might end up... Well, I think you might understand, hard to say though since you are no doubt a lefty, which translates into brain damaged.
32. Giffy: There is a huge difference between a budget, i.e. how the government proposes to spend tax dollars, and how they actually spent the tax dollars. If even our school districts can annually publish and mail a report to district residents of how dollars were spent, why not city and county, and state government? What are they afraid of? I think it might be they are afraid of the voters finding out that the money they paid for specific goals was not spent as promised, and that is why they now need to come back with special levies to ask for more. It would illuminate where priorities are, and we would all learn that the priorities are NOT essential services and infrastructure.
Let me get this straight...you want to add more Govt. bureaucracy by hiring more people to keep track of every dollar spent and where it went?
Nice idea in theory but in reality it will just create yet another Govt. agency that wastes more money.
I don't know who would be more disturbed by this, but, we totally agree on your last statement.
I wouldn't say I like paying taxes anymore then I like paying to go out to eat, have my clothes cleaned, buy a house, etc. I suppose in fantasy land roads, hospitals, schools, etc will just sort of build themselves.
Look we live in a Republican Democracy. I am not sure who these elites are,but I take it they are the majority of voters who support Democrats in this state.
Fortunately the people want government to do certain things, like Public Health etc. The people also want government to provide a safety net. I am sure you don't, but tough luck. Hell I wish my tax dollars didn't go to the Iraq debacle, but hey the people elected Bush. If you want change then get people elected who will do what you want, but the only people you have to blame are the people who vote for our current leaders.
Changes to the budget generally have to go through the legislative branch. There is discretionary funds but they are generally limited to specific areas. All of this information is available. With some narrow exceptions almost all actions of government is available online, or through FoI requests. It's all there, people just don't care enough to find it out.
YOu make it sound easy. It is not easy Remember I495. YOu had to read through every project to find where a Billion dollars was to be spent. The numbers put up on the website was short over a billion dollars. Yet Buried down 3 or 4 layers of bills I figured out that nearly 600 Million dollars was taken from transportation to be given to Mass Transit. A transportation bill for roads and buried so people who do not follow the money gave a lot of money people were thinking to fix the roads to move into Mass Transit.
Second item of interest same initiative. A road project that was funded only 30%. Had hidden in its description that the money was to buy 10000 minivans. I wonder who needed all those minivans. The estimate was at least 50% of the money for the project work would actually be used to buy minivans.
You have to look very hard but it gets easier if you know what the breakdown is of the Property taxes. You see what the total money is coming in. See how much goes to each agency. Then you have to see how much money was transfered from Agency A to Agency B. Then you get an idea of where the money really is being spent. But if you do not have a starting point a budget is worthless.
Look at Gas Taxes we pay. How much was collected this month? How was it spent? Look at the budget and see that of the amount of gas taxes revenue is going up. and as it goes up the state is stop paying the money they normally added to keep the infrastructure working. IF the state gave 100 Million to the transportation department in 2000 and then they now give 50 Million because of all the gas revenue Does that not mean that they are cutting back on what they use to pay from the general fund and divert that money for some other issue. No facts on this but doing comparisions of data looking at things historically is very hard. But you need a starting point to get an idea of the estimated moneys and when you see a big difference in the budget compared what was suppose to be collected for that agency due to the tax bill. You have a target to investigate. This is only a tool.
David, you obviously don't get how the economy works.
Lets break it down:
Sound Transit costs money to build. To build Sound Transit the Govt. hires construction companies. Those companies need material like steel, concrete, gas, etc. Prices on all those materials have risen dramatically in last couple of years (just look at gas).
To compound that there was a strike at a concrete plant last summer which pretty much shut down all construction leading to delays and cost overruns.
Maybe you should blame China for growing their economy so quickly thereby increasing prices for raw materials. You should blame Bush for getting us into the war which increased the price of oil from $25/barrel to well over $60/barrel. Maybe you should blame the striking workers for asking for better paying jobs. These are all contributing factors that one might not have thought of when they made the original budget for Sound Transit.
"SeattleR, people already know how much tax they're paying. Seeing it divided up into pieces on a statement won't change that. But the statements will help them see why they pay those taxes.
Posted by Bruce at May 3, 2007 07:31 PM"
Bruce, do you really believe folks know how much tax they are paying??
If you are so confident of that, riddle me this...
How much did YOU, Bruce, a relatively bright guy, pay in taxes in 2006??
Give me the details please.
Not easy, is it Bruce!
There are soooo many hidden taxes in our purchases (like B&O Tax)...I don't think you can do it. In fact, I KNOW you can't.
Careful with those types of statements.
They make you appear like yer average Seattle-mouthy, uninformed KLOWN!
Mr. Cynical- I agree that people probably underestimate the total taxes they pay, especially if you include their share of business taxes. What I meant is that most people know how much they pay in property tax (or any other specific tax payment, for that matter).
Giving someone a breakdown of how their property taxes are used won't change their perception of how much they're paying, but will help them think about how those taxes are used. Of course, their attitude toward that information will depend on how the breakdown is presented and the individual's attitude toward various types of public spending. But I believe that most people will be more comfortable with their taxes when they better understand how they're used. Indeed, I've always assumed that's why many government agencies, utilities, and charities eagerly provide this information to their constituents.
Cato you miss the point. Every transportation project no matter how good it looks may have some hidden costs or money diverted to sources other than transportation. That is why I cited two instances that I had noticed reviewing I495 website and associated Documents.
The claims on the cover are not the real facts.
You have to dig. Anytime I can get a guide of how the budget is being spent but they always use big groupings it is hard to follow the trail need a starting point and compare to other years. You need references that are not easy to find. But totals of Property tax revenue is available. IF you know the rough percentage goes to the state.
You can get a rough estimate that goes to the County and to the City. Then you break down and see if the numbers match. If they dont you start digging. I do not think Democrats want people to dig too hard. IT may not look good down there.
And Cato I understand the economy too well. I also know the tricks used to prevent road construction. the diversion of funds away from projects. The delays and excuses and the lies. It is very nature of government inefficiency. Lots of waste in addition to cost overruns. But when you couple road construction with Mass Transit who get the money first Roads or Mass Transit. Who will get to claim more money if there are cost overruns who which group will not have the funds. The answer is Mass Transit will eat all the money that is voted yes and the roads will get only a token amount. That has been the standard mode of operation for over a decade. Mass transit takes the front seat if their are cost overruns.
Lets look at estimates.
520 bridge 2 years ago they said between 1 and 1.5 billion dollars to biuld a new bridge. Latest estimate is 3 to 4 billion dollars. Is any attempt to find savings or increase what they want to ask for in funding in the vote this fall. No they want to be 300 Million short of funds so that as expenses rise for all the other Mass Transits projects they have a 3 Billion kitty to rob from. Everyone knows that they have to wait to get the next tax increase approved before they start work. on the Bridge. And they will want to tack on several billion dollars more of Mass Transit projects to get the funding to finish 520 bridge.
This bridge has been used how many times now for example of needing tax increases? Yet this emergency never happens. The funding is not their. Maybe we will see the start of building the bridge in 2050 at the rate they keep finding excuses not to start it. But they sure will try to charge tolls ASAP.
The problem with you "Government Tax Appreciation Program" is that Property Taxes are by-and-large COMINGLED in the General Funds of the various entities.
I believe local government's should be providing Public Safety and Infrastructure (Roads, Parks, Utilities). Basic Services.
What I would like to see is much better Public Accounting of $$ spent on Non-Essential Services. I would really like to see Property Taxes set at a point to cover Basic Services only. Then allow voters to vote to Fund other things like Libraries.
There are WAAAAY to many hands dipping into the General Fund trough.
Bruce, have you ever studied City or County Financial Statements?? Too often they are prepared in a fashion to "Spin" the things we value most...."for the children"-type things. The DISCRETIONARY spending is hidden from clear view. You have to smoke it out to get a handle on it.
Bruce, I think you would be absolutely shocked at what % of Local Government Budgets is "Discretionary". They just make you believe many of these "Discretionary" expenditures are required or we will all have poor quality life or die. It's not so.
Basic REQUIRED Spending vs. Discretionary
We need much better accounting to the Public and auditing by the State Auditor.
You need to do a little more research. You said "You should blame Bush for getting us into the war which increased the price of oil from $25/barrel to well over $60/barrel." Where did you get this calculation from? Iraq is producing about the same amount oil as before the war. You might want to read up a little on China and India's increased use of fossil fuels. Can't really blame that on Bush though, can you?
43. Can't really blame that on Bush though, can you?
Well let's see...starting war in already unstable region where 85% of the worlds oil comes from. If that doesn't lead to higher oil prices I don't know what does. Seems to me Bush made both his friends and enemies richer all at the same time.
Yes, demand has increased but supply has also increased slightly. Obviously not enough to compete with demand. I'm not placing the blame squarely on Bush and Iraq War 2.0, there are quite a number of contributing factors.
520 bridge 2 years ago they said between 1 and 1.5 billion dollars to build a new bridge. Latest estimate is 3 to 4 billion dollars.
During that time there has been a worldwide building boom, a huge spike in the price of raw materials, and an increase in the price of labor in this state. Inflation is a bitch ain't it.