Voters reject sales tax hike by big margin

Friday, August 6, 2010

Marshall County voters on Thursday refused to authorize the sales tax hike placed on the ballot on a request from 15 of 18 county commissioners.

In broad terms, the tax-hike referendum lost by approximately 4-1.

Faced with significantly lower revenues from property taxes because of foreclosures, nearly zero growth and some losses in sales tax revenue at the cash register, county commissioners sought to find a way to balance the budget with more revenue.

In the end, a balanced budget was achieved with curtailed spending but, without any crystal ball to know when the economic recession would end here, the county commission asked the election commission to put the question to voters.

That question was: Should the sales tax rate be increased by one half a cent from 9-1/4 cents per dollar to 9-3/4 cents, the highest percentage allowed by law?

By a wide margin, county voters said no.

Those voting against the sale tax hike proposal numbered 5,153, according to unofficial results. Those voting against it totaled 1,426. The percentages are 78 percent against and 22 percent for.

Fiscal conservatives running for county commission criticized the commissioners who sent the question to the voters, saying that if they were elected, then they'd cut spending when needed.

Those who faced budgets that included certain spending requirements under state law -- and officials who felt emergency services such as law enforcement and departments that deal with life or death issues could not be cut, countered their critics with explanations about dollars and cents.

Another argument used for increasing the sales tax was that state lawmakers might increase the rate where it's not at the maximum level and keep the money for the state's tight budget. That didn't happen.