Freedom Day in WA: Where more is less

By Angie Vogt, political commentary

appy Freedom Day!

No, it’s not July 4, but it just so happens that April 23, this past Wednesday, was the day that Americans stopped working to pay their taxes and began earning their income for themselves, their livelihood and their families’ needs.

This is the glorious day that we stop working for the government and start working for ourselves.

Oops, wait a minute, we’re in Washington, so push that back a bit because due to our higher than national average state and local taxes (fifth highest in the country, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation), our freedom actually comes next Tuesday, April 29.

So, I began to wonder what we get for our extra six days of pay that goes to the governor instead of our own pockets. After all, the government exists for our sake, not the other way around, according to the founders of this great country.

It just so happens that my mom is visiting from Tennessee and we had a conversation comparing cost of living issues, including taxes.

My mom is beginning retirement as a successful small business owner from the Volunteer State. She knows the “ins and outs” of taxes, budgeting and business. I asked her where the state of Tennessee gets its revenue from since, like Washington, it does not have a state income tax.

“Mostly property taxes,” she said. I had to ask, of course, what her property taxes were on her 1,600-square-foot home worth $200,000. They’re just about a $1,000 a year. I told her ours were more than three times that.

Sales tax? In Tennessee, it’s just over 9 percent next to our 8.9 percent. No big whoop.

“Oh, I know what the difference might be,” she said, rolling her eyes and preparing me to be outraged. “We have to pay a yearly license fee for our car tags and those are about $25.”

I choked back my laughter as I told her ours were in the hundreds of dollars before we had a tax revolt a few years ago and got the tabs down to $35 (thank you, Tim Eyman).

Of course, they have somehow managed to creep back up to $75. She looked horrified (but I could see she was planning her appeal to get us to move back).

I then told her how in the last legislative session, a group of Democrats were hell-bent on increasing vehicle taxes even more, based on engine size.

Rural and agricultural voters were outraged. Being that it’s an election year, the bill got squashed…but just wait until after the election. You can count on it being resurrected, unless of course we have a much-needed change in state leadership. The current Legislature needs some way of paying for the governor’s 33 percent increase in spending.

I sure wish I could increase my spending by 33 percent, then make someone else pay for it.

Back to the conversation with my mom: Slave to logic that she is, she insisted that surely we must be getting something more for our increased tax burden here in Washington state.

An hour later, we were driving to Seattle and talking about the notorious Seattle traffic. She commented on a huge transportation upgrade to one of the major interstates in Tennessee that just got under way and was looking pretty impressive.

But wait a minute, I reminded her: 25 years ago, when I was at the University of Tennessee, they had just finished a massive highway expansion on that same stretch that was very popular and got our Republican governor re-elected. My ever-so-backward hillbilly mom said, “That’s over twenty years old, honey. It’s time to upgrade. You’ve got to take care of the roads, after all.” Indeed. So logical.

“What about education?” she asked. I didn’t have the energy to tell her about the WASL fiasco, the expense of the test, its questionable quality as a measure of academic mastery, its colossal waste of teacher time, classroom time and the fact that given poor student performance on the math section, the state has decided with a wave of the legislative wand, that it doesn’t “count” as a requirement anymore for graduation. Never mind the hundreds of millions already spent.

I didn’t tell her about the lawsuit several school districts have waged against the government for the inequitable funding of districts across the state, and how the governor is fighting the Supreme Court ruling against her that deemed the system unconstitutional. Nor did I tell her about the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against the Washington Education Association and our own state laws that sought to undermine paycheck protection of our teachers by having their union dues used, without permission, for political candidates.

I just didn’t have the energy. But, well, anyway, Happy Freedom Day.

Federal Way resident Angie Vogt: vogt.e@comcast.net. For past columns and further commentary, visit www.soundupdate.com.

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