Buried beneath all of the headline screams about sexual harassment and indictments is some very important work on national tax reform. In Idaho, work on the budget has been going on over the summer as JAFC finalizes their plans for the legislative year. In Twin Falls, there was mention of whether to use additional tax money to increase the budget.

Clearly, the government’s share of the country’s economy is on legislators’ minds. And it’s coming close to Christmas and the end of the tax year, too. We are all facing demands on our income for giving to our loved ones and charitable interests. It’s easy to just say no to all of government’s demands and live our life as we like it.

Several states, notably Kansas, have tried a bare-bones approach to taxation, and it hasn’t worked. George H. W. Bush corrected the tax policies of his predecessor to avoid more debt and was not re-elected. Clearly, there has been a trend toward running for office on promises of cutting taxes even further. “How low can we go” is the feeling of many.

Just in case this squeezing of public funding began to make no sense, there has also been a steady drumbeat castigating social spending. Why should anyone get money or services from a government when they refuse to work and support themselves? (Like me, who has never had anything given to them).

It is time to get more clarity about the expense of government. At the same time, we need to have more open debate on the proper role of government. As it is now, political maneuvering has obscured these two debates with the call to cut taxes.

In order for citizens in our democracy to exercise their civic duty, they need to be able to select their representatives on real issues rather that ad agency concocted, emotionally charged, pseudo agendas.

There are two questions which need to be asked with every issue. Does government have any role in this issue? How much will it cost for government to fulfill that role? In recent years, there has been some effort to address the latter during the debate on the former. I believe that we citizens should push for even more information on cost, but not reject ideas based on cost alone.

In Idaho, infrastructure costs money. Education costs money. Public health costs money. Regulation costs money. As budgets are considered, I would like to see easier access to the facts. What actions are being funded? What actions are proposed for funding? What is the range of funding proposed and what is the absolute minimum that must be spent to have any positive effect?

If there is a bright spot in the morass of the internet, it is the webpage and its ability to organize data credibly. I want government at all levels to present cost information in a way that any citizen can understand. Ideas are fluid and are the lifeblood of political debate, but as public policy seems to get more complicated, citizens have a need to know whether “we can/can’t afford it” has real meaning to them.

How taxes should be levied is the subject for even more consideration, but my point here is that government has always cost money, and if we don’t want to find ourselves in the crisis of many states (and nations) and if we want to govern on reason rather than emotion, we need to pay for the results we want. And I would add, not one penny more.

Linda Brugger retired from the Air Force and is a former chairwoman of the Twin Falls County Democrats.

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