January 4, 2008

How to Help Our State

Lorraine Collins of Spearfish is a free-lance journalist whose work is seen frequently in the Black Hills Pioneer newspaper. Here is her latest offering.
I’ve been looking for a coat for quite a long time, now. I know just what I want. It’s the coat I had about 45 years ago. Hudson’s Bay, of “car coat” length, in soft wool, with a nice collar that could be turned up against the wind. Every time I see pictures of me in that coat I don’t spend any time looking at how young and slender I was then. I just stare at that coat. I’ve spent some considerable time this fall looking at coats in several cities and towns trying to find one like that, but I just haven’t found any. This makes me feel bad, not only for myself, but for the state of South Dakota.

When Governor Rounds gave his annual Budget Address to a joint session of the legislature last month, he explained that, “our income stream at state government is based on consumption”. We rely on sales tax in this state and people have not been spending as much money as they need to in order to keep the state coffers in good shape. He told the legislators to “go back home and tell people to buy.” I want him and our local representatives to know that I’ve really been trying. Actually, I did buy a new chair, and that was pretty expensive, but I’m probably not doing everything I could to help our state.

Realizing this, I’ve come up with an idea about how to help South Dakota get the income it needs even though I haven’t been able to buy as much as I should. It might help an economy based on consumerism when consumers are not doing their part.

My idea is the “alternative sales tax” like the “alternative minimum income tax” I’ve been hearing so much about. I think the idea of the “alternative minimum income tax” was that very rich people who can hire really good accountants could figure out how to avoid paying the federal income tax. So this alternative tax makes them pay at least something. It worked for a while. But the trouble is that it’s now causing a lot of hardship for people who are not multi-millionaires but still pay a bigger tax. Though this may have given the alternative tax idea a bad name, I would still like to consider an “alternative sales tax” for South Dakota.

Let’s say that you go into a store and look at something, maybe try it on, look at the color but you’re not sure, so you return it to a clerk. Then maybe you pick up something that Aunt Enid might like for her birthday, but decide against that, too. So in the end you buy nothing. As you leave, the clerk gives you a slip of paper that says you owe the State of South Dakota 4% of what you didn’t buy. I know this sounds outrageous, but think about it! You didn’t spend $200 for a coat you didn’t like, but you are still contributing to the state’s wellbeing! And if you take the $200 you didn’t spend and put it in a savings account, you could be reliving that old American idea of thrift, which used to be a virtue before it became our patriotic duty to go to the mall. But even though you’re selfishly saving money instead of spending it, you are still helping South Dakota.

I know this is tough, but we who live here have to do something to help our state. I know our state also depends on the Video Lottery but I don’t like to gamble. And even though the governor is disappointed by the fact that the cigarette tax is bringing in less money than anticipated, I really don’t want to take up smoking in order to pay a dollar a pack in tax to help out. But I don’t want to be accused of being a slacker. So unless the legislature can come up with some new concepts this year, I think they should at least consider my idea and help our state.
Our thanks to Lorraine Collins for letting us use her material at Black Hills Monitor.

No comments: