Here is the precise wording of a referendum that La Crosse County voters will see on the April ballot:
The County has identified $87.6 million in unmet road needs. To pay for transportation infrastructure in place of annual borrowing, should La Crosse County seek authority to levy a 0.5 percent (1/2 cent on the dollar) sales tax on tourist related items sold, leased or rented through tourist related retailers, (approximately 50% of local retail sales)?
Now, let's analyze this, point by point, and have an honest conversation about what is actually going on.
The County has identified $87.6 million in unmet road needs
I have no reason to dispute the $87.6 million figure for unmet road needs. What I want to know is why have these needs gone unmet for so many years that it has added up to this amount? Could it be that for at least the last 10-years (and probably longer) the county board was too busy spending money on new buildings for themselves? Could it be that the county board was too busy spending money on lavish artwork and furnishings for those new government facilities? Could it be that the county board was wasting money on new logos when there is absolutely nothing wrong with the current logo? Could it be that for at least the last 10-years (and probably longer) the county board was focused more on themselves and their own pet projects and simply refused to spend the necessary time and resources doing their basic duties like maintaining our infrastructure?
For at least 10 years, former members of the county board like Bill Feehan and Hubert Hoffman and current members who are in the minority like Ray Ebert, Jerome Gundersen Jr., and Dan Ferries have been warning county officials that the roads should be a priority. CouleeConseratives.com wrote an article about these warnings and the county's priorities back in January of this year. Please review that article to refresh your memory on this important aspect of the situation that we are now faced with.
To pay for transportation infrastructure in place of annual borrowing
The County Board of Supervisors didn't even think twice about doubling our debt when it came to spending tens of millions of dollars on their lavish new government offices. County Board Chair, Tara Johnson, even admitted on camera that they were well aware of the disrepair of the roads when they chose to make their new building the priority. This is a BIG DEAL. They DELIBERATELY chose to spend tens of millions of borrowed money on themselves instead of taking care of their primary duty and fix the roads. Watch Tara Johnson admit this on camera here.
I remember those debates during the vote to spend that money. They ridiculed and chided former board members like Hubert Hoffman and Bill Feehan when they had the audacity to warn them that going deep into debt was a bad idea. Are they trying to guilt tax payers with wording like this? Do they think we are stupid? Is there no way, other than going into debt, to pay for road maintenance? Why didn't they suggest shifting money out of the lavish office furnishings budget and spend that money on roads? Why didn't they suggest putting more money into roads and postpone the meaningless logo re-designs? Why didn't they suggest selling off some unnecessary parcels and use the proceeds for roads instead of a new pet project? Didn't anyone think of spending from the savings fund that has built up for a "rainy day?" Even though they manufactured it, we're kind of in a "rainy day" situation after at least a decade of poor choices by our local leaders.
...should La Crosse County seek authority to levy a 0.5 percent (1/2 cent on the dollar) sales tax on tourist related items sold, leased or rented through tourist related retailers, (approximately 50% of local retail sales)?
There are several points from this part of the wording in the referendum that voters need to understand before casting their ballot.
First, there is ALREADY a local 0.5 percent sales tax. This will double it. Why won't they just use the funds from the ALREADY existing 0.5 percent sales tax?
Second, using the words "tourist related" is misleading. Check out the accompanying YouTube video here. Supervisor Jerome Gundersen, Jr. raised this very point during the workshop discussions. Are they deliberately trying to confuse us into thinking that this new tax will only impact tourists coming to La Crosse and will have no affect on those of us who live here?
Finally, according to state law, PRAT taxes are levied on any sales including: candy, nut, sweet, bakeries, dairy product stores, gasoline service stations, eating, drinking, drug, liquor, sporting goods, bike, camera, gift, novelty, souvenir, clothing, bookstores, jewelry, hobby, toy, luggage, sewing, florists, tobacco, newsstands, misc. retail stores, physical fitness facilities, membership sports & rec clubs, hotels & motels, RV parks and campsites, racing, golf courses, amusement devices and that's just for starters.
Let me put it this way, If you are a single mother shopping for school clothes in La Crosse then you pay this new tax. If you are a newlywed couple having your reception catered then you pay this tax. If you are a father on your way home from work and drop by the Kwik Trip to pick up milk and bread you pay this new tax. If you are a college student buying a new bike downtown you pay this tax. If you are one of the thousands of professionals who work downtown and you visit a local restaurant for lunch you pay this new tax. EVERYONE is going to pay this new tax.
Our mission at CouleeConservatives.com is to encourage and promote traditional American values. It's the little things like being responsible and taking accountability that help to make our community great. If our local elected officials had this same attitude then they would have been more responsible with our tax dollars when it counted. They would have taken accountability for their failures, re-adjusted their budget priorities, and spent our money more wisely instead of trying to put those failures onto the backs of tax paying citizens.
Voters will make their final decision about how to proceed with the County Board's referendum question in the April election. There's no getting around this: it's a real pickle that we're in now due to a decade of poor decisions by the local officials on the County Board. We pray that voters will take all of these facts and ideas presented by us into consideration and choose the best way forward for everyone.