Keep Columbia Free wants lower taxes, different priorities 

Keep Columbia Free (KCF), a pro-liberty advocacy group, has released a statement condemning a proposed sales tax for downtown merchants they say will hurt more than help: 

The Community Improvement District (CID) is proposing through a ballot initiative on November 8, 2011, that downtown residents approve an increased sales tax of up to ½% for sales happening in the downtown business district. 

The justification is that these funds will be spent on “downtown beautification”, “technology and public information enhancements”, promotion of downtown events and assistance to entrepreneurs, “event recruitment and promotion” and “enhancements” to downtown shopping, dining, and entertainment. 

We urge you to vote against this tax. There are several reasons. 

We should be trying to lower taxes on people trying to spend money in Columbia. A new tax will increase the cost to consumers of doing business downtown, and will drive marginal consumers to other places where the sales tax is lower.

Second, many of the proposed improvements being pushed by the CID are unnecessary. There is no reason why a government agency should be in charge of event promotion, building smartphone apps, or providing WiFi. 

There are a variety of Columbia’s citizens AND BUSINESSES who make their livelihoods providing these services, and we shouldn’t give a government agency tax dollars to compete in these markets.  

Moreover, it is inevitable that the decisions made by a public agency to micro-manage Columbia businesses will cause division and turmoil fostered by accusations of favoritism and collusion. We don’t need that in our community.

Third, the First Ward needs another police officer and perhaps another fire company. If we are going to raise taxes to provide public services, these are the vital services that are needed in our city, and we should reject spending money on other projects until our most vital needs are met.

Fourth, the CID has lost the trust of many voters and citizens. In joining with Keep Columbia Safe to push for the installation and public funding of surveillance cameras, the CID joined forces with people who used city dollars to push a partisan agenda. We should consider the risk that future tax revenue will be used to pay for more surveillance cameras instead of making real investments in law enforcement or fire protection services.

For these reasons, we ask that you reject this proposed tax at the ballot.

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