Live sales tax free or die

BY MATTHEW WEST | JULY 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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I would like to share a message to all Iowa City residents that comes all the way from the great state of New Hampshire. A simple message that needs no interpretation or explanation.

Live free or die.

Yes, "live free or die" is the official motto for the state of New Hampshire (adopted in 1945), as it can be seen on all state license plates along with the state's iconic image of an old man on a mountain.

Earlier this summer, I was fortunate enough to visit this beautiful New England state: a peaceful place, one in which its residents live their lives by their own rules.

Yes, New Hampshire residents experience little intervention from their state government, especially when it comes to taxes — specifically a sales tax. The state is one of four in the country to have no sales tax. To explain my opinion quite simply, New Hampshire just gets it.

One thousand-plus miles to the west, Iowa City unfortunately has a 7 percent sales tax. From now until Aug. 14, the Iowa City City Council has the opportunity to lower the sales tax by eliminating the local-options sales tax.

Iowa City should abandon its previous decision to increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, because the high sales tax hurts local businesses as well as consumers.

In 2009, the city made the decision to increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent to generate money that will fund future flood-disaster responses. Ensuring Iowa City residents that the city will have the money to provide funding for flood-relief efforts is important; however, adding it on to the sales tax is not the way to do so.

Although I'm a supporter of fully eliminating the sales tax in Iowa City, I understand that currently isn't an option, and so I'll take any decrease in the sales tax that we can get.

The government implements a sales tax so it can get a piece of the action of many business transactions that take place in our town. Basically, the government thinks it is entitled to a portion of the consumer's hard-earned money.

Just because the government needs money to carry out its functions doesn't mean it deserves to profit off our business transactions. The state of Iowa is rewarded for many business sales despite how good or bad the economy is, while the average consumer is forced to pay more no matter how tight money is. A sales tax rewards the government for a flowing economy with additional revenue that was stolen from businesses and their customers.

Now, although I'm against everything a sales tax stands for, I do understand that additional 1 percentage point is going to future flood-relief projects — a good cause. However, there are plenty of other options to generate funds that we can save for an aftermath of a flood. Forget the new Moen building and use TIF money for when a natural disaster arises.

We want to be prepared to fund flood-relief projects in the future, but continuing with the added percentage point to every purchase is unfair and doesn't promote a healthy economy. One percentage point doesn't sound like much, but if you think about how all those additional 1-percentage-point increases add up, it's clear the government is stealing an awful lot of money off you.

Let's join Gov. Terry Branstad in pressuring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for some of the damages from the 2008 flood, including the Art Building and Hancher Auditorium. Why take the money from our consumers when the federal government should be responsible for providing funds for the rebuilding? The feds already commit billions to reckless spending, so I'm sure we could get it to budge just a little more.

Having the 25th-highest sales tax in the country isn't fitting for our Hawkeye State, and so, let's ditch the 7 percent plan. The state government should encourage a lively business world, not seek to generate money from it.

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