Letters to the Editor

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911: Regressive sales tax hurts low-income families

Letter by George Frey, Puyallup on July 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm with 49 Comments »
July 18, 2011 2:23 pm

We pay 9.3 percent in sales tax in Pierce County. Pierce Transit asked for a .3 percent increase earlier this year, which was rejected. Now we are going to be asked for a .1 percent increase to create a combined 911 dispatching agency and upgrade the police and fire radio system.

This is posed as just one cent on a $10 purchase. They forget about the 93 cents we are already paying on that $10 purchase.

We already pay 70 cents a month per phone line for Pierce County 911 support. What is the cost of this new program? How long will it take to pay for this enhanced system? Will they remove the .1 percent once it is paid for, or will this just flow to the general fund?

There is a limit to how much we have to support local government and community services. If the Pierce Transit proposition had passed, we would be at 9.6 percent, and the 911 proposition would put us at 9.7 percent. Next year there will be another proposition or two asking for more funds.

Most of us aren’t seeing any increases in our income. We can’t continue to pay more for services that many of us don’t use.

The sales tax is a regressive tax. It puts an increased burden on low-income families. Is there a cap on how much we are going to be asked to pay?  The more we pay in taxes, the fewer dollars we have to spend on goods that help build the economy.

Leave a comment Comments → 49
  1. tree_guy says:

    George, thanks for your insightful letter.

    The liberals love these little incremental tax proposals. Why? Its easy to describe the tax as just a “penny or two” per purchase. Well, who could oppose anything so benign as a penny? The problem is that these little incremental increases combine to form one almost insurmountable tax burden for many of us.

    There’s a healthy amount of funding available for 911 already. This can be redistributed to furnish the wonderful new system. Use an existing structure if possible. Why build a new monument to government excess?

  2. alindasue says:

    I haven’t had to call 911 in over two decades, so I suppose I can say that I “don’t use” 911 – but boy was I sure glad it was there 20+ years ago when I needed it. 911 is kind of like insurance; you hope you never actually have to use it but you want it there in case you do need it.

    I’ve been low income. I can tell you that adding a penny (or three) extra sales tax to a $10 purchase doesn’t make that much difference. A person would have to buy several hundred dollars in TAXABLE (not food) items in order for the added tax to even top $1.

    It’s only the higher income people buying big ticket items like new cars that would even feel the added .01 cents (or the .03 cents that transit wanted). Now if someone wants to complain about paying an extra $42 ($1344 instead of $1302 in sales tax) to support 911 when he buys his new $14,000 car, I could understand that – but the claim that the added tax would hurt low income families just doesn’t hold water.

    By the way, I did my math based on the figures given in the letter, but I’m pretty sure sales tax here in Tacoma is still only 8.9%.

  3. stetsonwalker says:

    alindasue, your 911 call 20 years ago cost you at least $240.00 and that only includes .50 state and .50 federal 911 charges to your phone bill. That does not include the county tax as well as any city tax that you have paid for that system. 911 is also on your property tax. In just a few seconds I can have the response number to any emergency I have! 911 operators will put you on hold longer than that! Technology has made 911 like the post office, something we no longer need!

  4. So george, just how do you suggest we pay for the service that you want, but won’t pay a buck or two a year for?
    Any ideas how you can have your cake and still eat it?

  5. itwasntmethistime says:

    I guess I just don’t understand why we need a whole new system. What’s wrong with the existing one? I was under the impression it worked pretty well. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it isn’t realistic or affordable for everything to be perfect all the time. I’ve had to call 911 a few times over the years and the fire department came right out. What’s wrong with that?

  6. alindasue says:

    stetsonwalker said, “alindasue, your 911 call 20 years ago cost you at least $240.00 and that only includes .50 state and .50 federal 911 charges to your phone bill.”

    Yes, and it’s been worth every penny. Yes, it is possible to reach emergency services without going through 911, but when one of your children is badly hurt and your mind is just this side of panic, being able to simply dial 911 is a HUGE help. You may think it is outdated, but in a true emergency, it’s still the best system out there.

    By the way, try sticking a package in your computer and mailing it.. Post offices aren’t nearly as obsolete as you think.

  7. stetsonwalker says:

    alindasue,
    Why would I want to mail a package with the Post Office? You get a better deal and faster shipping with UPS, DHL, Fed Ex, and many more. Also if you ship with them your package is automatically insured without the extra charge! More convenient locations as well! I should know, I do a lot of eBay!

  8. WarmNfuzziOne says:

    Maybe folks ought to work harder so they aren’t ‘low income’.

    Well gee…isn’t that simple? It’s what we all did when we started with minimum wage jobs.

  9. Reply to Stetsonwalker: How much gas do you burn going to a mail center? My mailman came to my door today and picked up 7 birthday cards, hand addressed thank you, stamped with gorgeous commemorative collectible stamps, each with a $20. gift card for 7 grandchildren. I love my mail man. He delivers 6 days a week, rain or snow, and I plan to continue paying all my bills by check (keeps bank employees working too) and sending those ppaer checks in the mail. Old Fashioned? You bet. But I am helping the economy with each little step I take to support American workers. How about you?

  10. tree_guy says:

    “I’m pretty sure sales tax here in Tacoma is still only 8.9%”. alindasue

    Read more: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/letters/2011/07/18/sales-tax-cap/#ixzz1SVXAed3j

    Well, you’re close. The liberals voted it up to 9.3% a few lattes/month a few years ago.

  11. Re: 911 Service. When my husband was ill the Fire Department made it into my house in less than 90 seconds. They saved his life several times. These medics are my best friends, even if I don;t know their names. I’m so glad to know that we have prompt, dedicated and medically trained people at the end of the phone line.
    We have one of the best Fire Departments in the country. Thanks guys!

  12. tree_guy says:

    “the claim that the added tax would hurt low income families just doesn’t hold water.” alindasue

    Read more: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/letters/2011/07/18/sales-tax-cap/#ixzz1SVXrGMK4

    It’s widely believed by liberals and conservatives alike that regressive taxes like the sales tax are disproportionately harmful to poor people. Mayber the low income families you know have a lot of money.

  13. stetsonwalker says:

    Olemag
    And you could still do all those things you like and save money if the post office was open to private competition. The UPS man could come right to your mailbox with the same smile he delivers your package!

  14. It’s widely believed by liberals and conservatives alike that regressive taxes like the sales tax are disproportionately harmful to poor people.

    Then why do so many cons claim a national sales tax would be better?

  15. stetsonwalker says:

    Olemag
    Glad the fire dept works great for you, out in Roy they sometimes cannot find their ass with both hands! Had to give directions on the phone more than once!

  16. Why would you choose to live in Roy, Stetsonwalker, if services are so inadequate? I don’t recall any of us “natives” ever giving Roy any Nobel’s for high intelligence. In fact, based on the early economy of white lightning it seems a lot of the gene pool may be brain fried. Your black prush painting of other communities great services is unwarranted. Get out of the mushroom patch.

  17. tree_guy says:

    “Then why do so many cons claim a national sales tax would be better?” bb

    I can’t speak for “so many cons.” I would imagine the people you are talking about want to use a national sales tax as a REPLACEMENT for some other tax they feel is unfair. The sales tax under discussion doesn’t replace anything. It’s a brand new tax which is going to overlay and augment every other existing tax. It doesn’t do away with any other tax like perhaps a national sales tax would.

  18. tree_guy says:

    “In fact, based on the early economy of white lightning it seems a lot of the gene pool may be brain fried. Your black prush painting of other communities great services is unwarranted”. olemeg

    Read more: http://blog.thenewstribune.com/letters/2011/07/18/sales-tax-cap/#ixzz1SVijw87a

    People who spell brush with a “p” probably don’t need spend time pondering gene pools. Better to ponder the dictionary.

  19. itwasntmethistime says:

    Again, what’s wrong with the current 911 system?

  20. Oh gosh, Tree Guy, mea culpa. They didn’t teach typing in my high school. My brain works faster than my fingers.
    Not sure that takes away from the hard core of sensible thought.
    Nor does it diminish my knowledge of the history of our area.
    Most Washington communities were not spawned by Royalty.
    Some of us are the result of pioneers who migrated when we were the Oregon Territory.
    Yeah, I’m one of them and have the papers to prove it.
    So tell me how “White Lightning” was not an economic force in small communities?
    And what is your special contribution to the gene pool?
    Mine is pretty extraordinary.

  21. stetsonwalker says:

    Olemag,
    To be so extraordinary would be not as dependent on a waste of money like a 911 system in the first place! We out in the Roy area do not need it. We know how to use the speedial to get things we need.

  22. tree_guy says:

    Yes olemag, I was just thinking about your extraordinary contribution to the gene pool. On behalf of all the folks in the area thank you so much!

  23. itwasntmethistime says:

    Olemag — they didn’t teach Latin in my high school.

  24. Reply to Stetsonwalker:
    I’m so glad.
    Don’t have cardiac arrest.

  25. I would like to see stetsonwalker’s math that says alindasue’s 911 call cost $240.00.

    Tree_guy – to a conservative any tax is regressive.

    Stetsonwalker – what do you mean ‘if the post office was open to
    private competition’? Did you cut and paste your 5:27 post without reading it.

    Itwasntmethistime –‘ what’s wrong with the current 911 system?’

    I would say very little, it’s just ‘obsolete’ and needs to be replaced with the ‘new and improved’ system that was manufactured overseas.

    Not to date myself much but my public high school in Eastern Washington taught 3 years of Latin (along with French, Spanish, and German), and 4 years of typing

  26. alindasue says:

    tree_guy said, “It’s widely believed by liberals and conservatives alike that regressive taxes like the sales tax are disproportionately harmful to poor people. Mayber the low income families you know have a lot of money.”

    Until a few years ago, our family was living at or near the poverty level. In states where food is also taxable, sales tax can be disproportionately harmful to the poor. However, once the tax was lifted off of food in Washington, the proportions changed. While low income families do buy some none-food items, they tend to buy them in smaller amounts. If you don’t have the money to spend on a new car or stereo or a $500 purse, you won’t be paying tax on it.

    (Yes, I know someone who actually spent $500 on a purse. She was quite upset to find a convincing knock-off at Walmart. I just thought it was funny.)

    As it is, low income people are often the ones who get the most benefit from thing provided by our sales tax (ie free city/county parks, inexpensive public transportation, school funding, etc).

    tree_guy also said, “The liberals voted it up to 9.3% a few lattes/month a few years ago.”

    It would take a good $800 worth of spending on taxable goods for the .6% difference to equal the price of even one medium sized latte. You’d have to do quite a bit of big spending for it to equal out to a few lattes/month.

    xring, stetsonwalker’s math wasn’t that hard to follow: $1 per month for 20 years…

  27. And in 20 years how much car insurce have we all paid, and how many times have we had to use it?

  28. alindasue says:

    xring said, “And in 20 years how much car insurce have we all paid, and how many times have we had to use it?”

    Well, I currently pay more than $240 in just one month to insure our 3 car, 4 driver family. (Teens are expensive…) Fortunately, we’ve only had to use the insurance 3 or 4 times in the last twenty years – and only half that was for accidents a family member was “at fault” for.

    As I told stetsonwalker, that $1 per month to keep 911 available “just in case” has been money well spent.

  29. “I can’t speak for “so many cons.”

    Why not? You sure do speak for a bunch of ‘liberals’.

  30. As I read the original editorial it seems his issue isn’t with the importance of the 911 system but with the continued requests for more funds from our local government. I have used the 911 system and it worked well. Again, it isn’t the .1% or .3% but the fact that it is being added to the 9.3%.

    Take the time to look at how many of the things you buy have sales tax. As long as we keep saying that what they are asking for isn’t very much they will keep adding more to it. It is $279 on a $3,000 car which isn’t a high priced vehicle or if you can afford a $15,000 car it is $1,395. That is a lot of money that you could use for other expenses. Most of us aren’t getting wage or social security increases but our costs for food and gas sure have gone up.

    I agree that a lot of the programs that sales tax support are worthwhile but how many can we afford to support.

  31. menopaws says:

    The Pierce County 911 is the worst in the entire NATION. Both the Tacoma Weekly and the TNT ran the story. My experience with 911 was horrible. I don’t believe we should pay one cent more in taxes for such a poorly run system….the slowest response time in the nation……when I called–no one answered the damn phone…and other people have had the same situation. I have a firefighter friend who told me to keep the “non-emergency” numbers close at hand because, and this a quote: “You weren’t the first and you won’t be the last” My dog went into her Cujo mode and scared the intruder off—but, 911 never picked up the phone…….So, when there are some adminstrative changes at the top (firings)—then come talk to me. When I followed up–all I got were excuses……Shift change I believe was the final one…..More money to the same idiots will not solve any problems.

  32. “xring says:
    July 19, 2011 at 7:56 am
    And in 20 years how much car insurce have we all paid, and how many times have we had to use it?”

    An interesting analogy, xring. As we all know, auto insurance is mandatory. Now if someone said 911 was “mandatory” we’d be hearing the echos of “socialism” or something of the sort.

    People willingly allow the insurance companies to lobby for mandatory laws if they think it protects them.

  33. Still waiting for one of our rightists to explain how they can have their cake and eat it too.

  34. stetsonwalker says:

    KARDNOS
    Kind of interesting you bring up car insurance. It is mandatory you insure the damage you could cause on other people’s property and bodies. It is not required that you insure the damage you inflict on either yourself or your vehicle. BIG difference!

  35. My analogy between 911 and car insurance is better to have and not need than to need and not have.

  36. stetsonwalker says:

    xring

    While I agree to a point, but 911 should be purely optional. If you want that insurance, you can pay extra and receive it. You know, more like home insurance, a damn good idea, but optional.

  37. 911 should be purely optional.

    How would that work……….those who have paid a fee have their phone number entered into the computer and the 911 operator – instead of dealing only with the emergency at hand – checks to see if you are a subscriber while you are screaming about a someone murdering your children and then calmly says “I’m sorry, you did not pay the $10 fee for this year, you will have to call another number”.

  38. stetsonwalker says:

    Similar to that, you simply block all calls except the ones that chose to pay in to the 911 system, really easy since we no longer live in the horse and buggy days!

  39. ribbonwinner says:

    In response to Stetsonwalker’s comment “In just a few seconds I can have the response number to any emergency I have! 911 operators will put you on hold longer than that! Technology has made 911 like the post office, something we no longer need!”

    I’d love to see you come up with non emergency numbers for different agencies during a true emergent situation. If one of your family members was bleeding out from an injury, would you really have the time to whip out your trusty cell phone, or hop on your computer for the white pages and look up the number for the fire department? And if you did, do you even know which fire dispatch center has jurisdiction where your emergency is?

    What if you were at a friend’s house and fell victim to a home invasion robbery? Do you know your friend’s address, or which agency has jurisdiction?

    You amuse me when you say 911 is as outdated as the post office. I’m willing to bet at some point in your life you will need to dial those 3 little numbers that will connect you to a life line. In an emergency even a few seconds can mean life or death.

  40. ribbonwinner says:

    In response to the original poster, this tax is not about whether it will or will not hurt low income families.

    You know the old saying, there two things in life that are certain. Death and taxes. Low income or not. we all have to pay taxes. What it boils down to is what tax will actually benefit those who are paying for it.

    Bottom line is that this sales tax increase is not a benefit to most of the taxpayers who are being asked to pay up.

    Several of the cities that are mentioned in the South Sound 911 proposal have already allocated the needed monies to fund a system upgrade that meets the FCC standards. This system is already in place and is in use, and it functions quite well. Now these citizens are being asked to pay a tax to fund something they will have no need or use for. There is also no end date on this tax.

    So as a citizen of Bonney Lake, Sumner or Puyallup, why should you vote yes to increase your taxes when those monies will not be allocated to benefit your 911 experience? You have already paid for a workable, functioning system and receive 911 services that meet and exceed national standards.

    Do your homework on this, and vote NO for South Sound 911.

  41. Really911 says:

    Most of these responses get way off the track.
    Ribbonwinner is exactly right. The citizens of Bonney Lake, Sumner and Puyallup have already paid for a radio system that works great. And keep in mind that the federal mandate was only for radio systems. There is no justification for adding into this 2 new communications centers and an EOC. Pierce County could have been involved in the radio upgrade when the City of Tacoma did it and Puyallup got on board. There is still the option for Pierce County to get involved with the radio system that is already in place and meets the requirements of the federal mandate. They just won’t be able to have control over it so they dont want to play.
    And be aware that the Fire Dept presented to the Puyallup City council on 7/19 their request to renew their EMS Levy too. And you will hear that if the Levy doesn’t pass they will lose fire fighters. But maybe if they just quit building new fire stations they can afford the fire fighters. 3 new fire stations in the Graham area in the past couple years, 1 on 224th east side of Meridian, 1 on 70th just south of 224th, and 1 on 78th south of 176th. That is just in my area, How about your area ?
    The comment that 911 is outdated like the post office is rediculous, but if you think so, then make sure that you have the Medical Examiners phone number programmed into your phone, you’ll need him to come get your body.

  42. stetsonwalker says:

    ribbonwinner
    What if you were at a friend’s house and fell victim to a home invasion robbery? Do you know your friend’s address, or which agency has jurisdiction?

    Yes I do know what agency, I would pull out my side communication device from the Springfield Armory and dial 1911-.45ACP. Then call the garbage man to get the trash off of his lawn.

  43. stetsonwalker says:

    ribbonwinner
    But to more seriously answer your question this is another one of our problems. Too many agencies. We need to combine many of them and we could save millions. We do not need a state patrol, county sheriff, city cop department. We need to combine all o0f them into 1 police department. Same with BATF, Secret Service, FBI and etc. One agency and eliminate repetitive administration costs as well as many other costs!

  44. Really911 says:

    And have nothing but coruption..Who would investigate them ? They could investigate themselves ? You are comparing apples to oranges…If you dont see the value in 911, that is fine, you are entitled to your opinion…Then please vote NO on the South Sound 911 project and the Fire Dept EMS levy

  45. stetsonwalker says:

    Really911
    Not apples to oranges, pissing away tax money.

  46. itwasntmethistime says:

    Really911
    — For those of us who do value the 911 system, what’s wrong with the one we have? Except for the one guy on here who says his call was never answered, the rest of us have said we call, the fire department comes, all is well. Why do we need to spend millions on a new system when the old one works pretty well?

  47. ribbonwinner says:

    In reply to itwasntmethistime’s question

    Really911
    — For those of us who do value the 911 system, what’s wrong with the one we have? Except for the one guy on here who says his call was never answered, the rest of us have said we call, the fire department comes, all is well. Why do we need to spend millions on a new system when the old one works pretty well?

    There is nothing wrong with the system that some cities already have in place (ie the cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Sumner etc). These cities have already paid for the FCC mandated upgrade of their radio systems.

    Pierce County could pay to join the radio system that currently exists that Tacoma and Puyallup already uses.

    In fact, they could have joined the radio system years ago when it was first put in place, but they chose not to. Now their backs are against the wall because they were already given an extension to perform the radio upgrade. However, now that they are quickly approaching their deadline and still do not have the upgraded radios, they are proposing South Sound 911. Pierce County is touting it as this “great vision”, when in fact it is only raising taxes to pay for something that already exists. Pierce County has had every opportunity to join in on, why should we pay more for their mistake and apparent misappropriation of their funds?

    Nothing will change with the way 911 calls are answered with South Sound 911, nor will their call answering times get any better.

    If people are frustrated now that the line rings (or in some cases is never answered) when you call Pierce County – can you imagine what will happen when they have even more cities to answer calls for? No upgraded radio is going to change that.

  48. ribbonwinner says:

    In reply to stetsonwalker’s many comments:

    If you don’t see the value in 911 and want to go all vigilante, then by all means go right ahead.

    If 911 isn’t something you use, or ever see yourself using, then save yourself some $ and vote NO on the South Sound 911 proposal and the Fire/EMS levy.

  49. Really911 says:

    To answer itwasntmethistime,

    Since 9/11 there was a federal mandate to upgrade radio systems from VHF to 800 MHZ by 2011, then the date was moved to 2013.
    Whats wrong is that the VHF radios have very large areas where the radios can’t be heard by dispatch and can’t hear dispatch or each other. Moving to 800MHZ improves that greatly. There are still very small spots where there are problems but very few and very small areas. Pierce County never made the upgrade when the City of Tacoma spearheaded the upgrade. Puyallup joined in and therefore the City of Tacoma, Puyallup, BonneyLake and Sumner are on 800 MHZ. Sumner and Bonney Lake because Puyallup dispatches for those 2 cities.
    Pierce County is claiming that agencies can’t talk to each other, but this is not true. The cities do just that on numerous special DUI emphasis, Party patrols, and other special projects where agencies from all over the area participate. It was done for the funerals for the Lakewood officers and the Pierce County Deputy Mundel. And when Puyallup officers worked in Lakewood during the funerals so that all the Lakewood officers could attend the funerals the radios worked fine. They just have to patch them together so they can hear each other.
    Pierce County is asking for a SALES TAX INCREASE to not only meet the federal mandate but to build 2 new State of the art Dispatch centers and a new EOC for the fire department. The radio system alone for Pierce County is estimated to be 90 million dollars.
    There other part of this problem is that the Sales tax increase is county wide, making the citizens of Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Sumner that have already paid for their system pay again, and be part of the SOUTH SOUND 911 project under the control of Pierce County with little or no control of how their cities will operate for normal emergency services to their cities because they will only have a rotating seat, once ever 9 years, on the boards that govern this. So all the small cities will be forced to do business the way Pierce County currently does.
    Pierce County is claiming that it will streamline call handling when you call 911 and make it seamless. This is the biggest lie of all because, the function will be the same. You call 911, your call goes to a Primary PSAP, if it is for fire or medical aid, Your call will be transferred to a Secondary PSAP (the fire dispatch center). It works exactly that way now and will work that way then. The big difference is that right now for the citizens of Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Sumner. Their Primary PSAP is Puyallup City Comm. Which EXCEEDS national standards of answering 90 % of the calls in 10 seconds or less and 95% of the calls in 20 seconds or less. Their stats are 94.38% and 99.90% respectively. And are consistantly in that area. The Primary PSAP for Pirece County with the exception of Fife, Milton, Buckley, Orting,Eatonville and a couple other small areas is LESA. They do not meet the National standards or even come close. They meet their own standards which are consideralby lower than the national standard. Pierce County wants to force all the little cities to join them and make them the only game in town. They will be a bigger center with all the same problems. This plan will fix Nothing. And I haven’t even addressed the fire department part of this. They will contract with Pierce County and will be able to opt out after a year, but will have a big new state of the art comm center and a fist full of your money. And don’t forget they the fire department is coming to the public to have their EMS levy renewed this year…How deep are our pockets ?

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