In today’s Herald: Sales Tax Best Option

The issue: the .25-cent sales tax increase on the May 6 ballot
Our stance: voting “FOR” the tax is the best, and only, option

Voters who have followed the tug-of-war over the 0.25-per­cent sales tax measure appear­ing on the May 6 ballot could, if they allowed themselves, become awash in rationale, rhetoric, statistics and logic. (And, for the right-brained among them, emotion.) Or they could cut to the chase and take the only reasonable path.

Either course of action, if played out fully and with proper perspective, ends with the same result: a “for” vote.

Saying “yes” to the question will raise the local sales tax on most items in Lee County (excluding most foods and prescription drugs, as well as cars) from 6.75 percent to 7 percent, the same level at which the sales tax was until changed by the state leg­islature last summer.The revenue it will generate — projected to be about $1.5 million annually — will help fund dire education-related capital needs in Lee County.

The persuasive — but ultimately superficial — arguments against the tax might tempt you to think there are alternatives, but the bottom line reads like this: the significance and immediacy of the needs we have means that the alternatives we face, if the sales tax measure fails, will ulti­mately cost us more. (The 0.25-per­cent sales tax equates to 3.5 cents in property taxes.)The sales tax, which will be paid by anyone shopping in Lee County, and not just residents, is less burdensome and more fair than a property tax hike.

For those reasons, The Herald endorses and supports a “for” vote on the question.

This issue is more complicated than either side of the argument might have you believe, but a basic element weaves its way through the complexity: renovations and repairs needed at Lee County High School and Central Carolina Community College have put the county in dire straits. Approval of the sales tax in­crease will help call the question and get the repairs done.

The key to studying the issue is perspective. Those who oppose the tax will cite the county’s high property tax rates, significantly increased spend­ing in our schools, existing “rainy day” reserves on hand and alterna­tive sources for the funds as reason to defeat the sales tax question.

There is merit to those discussions, but they distract from the urgency of the ques­tion at hand. Ultimately, the circum­stances which conspired, negatively or not, to bring us to this tax question don’t change what we face in the here and now. Sometimes you must take stock of what’s in front of you and make the call. Now’s that time: the sales tax is the least painful and most equitable way to do that, and it can only be done by voting “for” it.

At the end of the day, the sales tax question reminds us of the old riddle: would you step off the wing of an airplane without a parachute for $1.5 million?

The instinctual response is “no,” but if that airplane is on the ground — and not airborne — it’s still the wrong response.

Get all the facts be­fore you turn down this bet.

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