The reasons for Westminster’s budget shortfall are known to all concerned. The question is how to respond?
I believe adding another 1% to the sales tax is the wrong response. Avoiding the necessary re-structuring by transferring more money from the pockets of taxpayers into the coffers of City Hall is the wrong response.
The city’s current difficulties are the cumulative result of past council decisions, such as turning Westminster into a giant redevelopment area and approving unsustainable pension agreements.
Nonetheless, we must take those past mistakes and move forward.
When Westminster residents suffer an income reduction, they can’t simply force other people to give them more money. They have to make tough spending decisions and choose to tone down any luxuries – while working to increase their income by finding a better job or other avenues.
The proposed sales tax increase would make Westminster the most expensive place in Orange County to buy anything – tied with Stanton. Putting your businesses at a competitive disadvantage to businesses in neighboring communities is not a sound economic development strategy. In the long run, it depresses economic activity, is regressive, and harms our great community.
Several months ago, the city formed a Financial Task Force comprised of five community members who care about the health and welfare of Westminster. They examined the city’s budgetary situation and offered a number of recommendations – none of which included a sales tax hike as a solution. In fact, the Task Force explicitly warned the council against considering such a step until all other alternatives had been exhausted.
But they have barely been considered, let alone exhausted.
Raising taxes on hard-working men and women is the easy route. Instead, the city should focus on the Financial Task Force’s recommendations, while simultaneously seeking to generate more revenue by incentivizing more economic activity. Yes, the short-term sacrifice is painful, but preferable to the long-term injustice of sticking taxpayers with the bill in the form of a sales tax increase we all know will remain once the emergency has passed.
Please reject any tax increase proposal at this time.