Have you ever had your money taken and spent against your
interests or political views?
Oh, wait. We're all taxed. So I guess the answer is yes.
But I'm thinking of a specific kind of taxpayer spending.
First, a slight aside, for illustration purposes: Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unions for public-sector employees cannot force nonmembers to pay union dues. Sounds like a no-brainer, but for years unions required government workers who did not join the union to pay "fair share" fees under the notion that they benefit from the unions' collective bargaining and other activities.
The plaintiff was an employee of the Illinois Department of Health Care and Human Services. Mark Janus sued the union representing his fellow government employees because he didn't want the union fee deducted from his paycheck just because he worked for state government. His argument? It's a violation of First Amendment rights if someone is forced to pay a fee to an organization with different views than the employee holds.
Not to get too far into the issue of abortion, but debate has occasionally sounded similar when it comes to public funding of Planned Parenthood. Although federal policy bans using federal Medicaid money to cover almost all abortion, critics of funding for the organization say one can hardly spend millions paying for its other health care functions and not help it support its delivery of abortion-related services.
Now, to my Arkansas example: Especially during legislative sessions of the Arkansas General Assembly, it's easy to see organizations like the Arkansas Municipal League, which represents cities, and the Association of Arkansas Counties, which represents -- you guessed it -- county governments busy lobbying in the halls of the state Capitol.
Are you a member? You probably said no, but in a way you are.
Let's use the example of the Arkansas Municipal League. As a resident, you pay taxes to support city government. In turn, city government joins organizations like the Municipal League by using your tax dollars to pay their membership fees, as well as paying for annual conventions and the like.
Of the four bigger cities in Northwest Arkansas, Fayetteville pays $15,491, based on a per-capita funding formula that includes the entire city's population. Rogers pays $7,875 this year for its membership fee. Bentonville and Springdale both pay just a little shy of $5,000. The organization gets hundreds of thousands more each year for services such as legal assistance, workers compensation and vehicle insurance.
But the Municipal League isn't always arguing in your best interest. So far in this session, it's pushed lawmakers in Little Rock to:
• Let larger cities enter contracts for as much as $50,000 (the limit is now $20,000) without an open bidding process and to do that through a simple resolution, rather than a more complex passage of an ordinance. Forget public transparency, folks.
• Create attorney-client privilege protections for government lawyers, whether it's a city attorney, county attorney or others. That would likely create a hole in open government laws big enough to drive a semi through. Is that really in the public's interest?
• Provide more money for highways and roads. Now, maybe that sounds good, but doesn't that depend on the details? If it's higher gas taxes, is that in your interest?
Sometimes, what's perceived as good for government is not necessarily good for the people.
It's the same for the county organization. Your taxes support lobbying that you may not agree with.
Here's my point: As a taxpayer to your city and county, you're helping to pay for lobbying efforts at the state Capitol. If you don't care for what those organizations are lobbying for, it makes it all the more important to make your voice known. Don't let them speak for you.
And if those organizations are pushing something you oppose, call up your mayor, county judge, city council or quorum court and tell them you don't appreciate it.
Commentary on 02/10/2019
Print Headline: Get what you are paying for, want it or not