I have said little about it recently, but the Grand Rapids sales tax referendum is a hot topic locally. As I am outside of the city limits, I will not be voting on it myself, but would like to share a few thoughts for those who will.
I am neither in favor of the sales tax, nor opposed to it. There are good arguments on both sides. For those in favor of it, there is the promise that an implementation of the sales tax will nominally decrease property taxes, and significantly decrease special assessments. I do agree that property taxes and special assessments should be reduced. The argument against the sales tax is a combination of the fact that Grand Rapids has too high of a tax rate already, combined with the potential of the sales tax hurting some businesses in Grand Rapids. These are also fair arguments. That’s why it is a difficult choice. Both sides are correct in their reasoning, so the choice is not between right and wrong, but between preferences.
The concern I do have is something else. We, no matter where we live, already have more different taxes than we can keep track of. Most of us do not even realize how many taxes we already pay, and just discovering what they are would take more time than most of us, myself included, have available. Because of this, my inclination would be to oppose the sales tax, not because of its merits, or lack thereof, but because it is yet another tax being added to the far too numerous taxes most of us already pay.
I would actually be likely to support it if the sales tax would be used to completely replace another tax, rather than simply being added to the myriad taxes we already have to contend with. Fewer taxes mean more transparency, more taxes mean less. Not necessarily by design, but by the difficulty encountered when trying to keep track of them all.
Just my opinion, and something for you to think about in the days leading up to the vote.