One of the most reviled characters in English history was John Morton, Lord Chancellor and chief tax collector to the Tudor king Henry VII. Morton was known for an infamous logical fallacy: if a subject lived extravagantly, he must have plenty of money to pay hefty taxes; likewise, if he lived frugally, he must have ample savings and thus could also give generously for the king’s coffers. While the expression “Morton’s Fork” now refers to a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives, the original allusion derived from squeezing ever more resources from the king’s subjects.
Royger Harris, founder of the new Williamson County Employee’s Association, seems to have channeled Morton in his demands on county taxpayers. Harris, unhappy that county employees will not receive salary increases and may have to contribute more to their health insurance next year, actually wants the Commissioners Court to raise taxes on Wilco residents. Never mind that under President Obama, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed to somewhere between 9.5% and 22%,* and many private sector employees are weathering significant pay cuts (my own household took a 25% pay reduction in 2010). Additionally, private sector employees have been adjusting to rising health care costs for several years now, and many have had to switch to high-deductible plans. The average American household (excepting perhaps those of school superintendents) is scrambling to adjust to a difficult economy and family budgets are quite lean.
In Harris’ narrow view, taxpayers should cut back even further so that he and his fellow county employees will not have to trouble themselves with the budget restrictions the rest of us face. Not only do Williamson County residents already pay one of the highest property tax ratesin the nation (granted, largely due to school district rates,) but are also bracing for the ‘Tax Tsunami’of massive federal tax increases slated for 2011.
Happily, this is not Tudor England and we are not subjects of an autocratic king and his henchman. As an elected body, the Williamson County Commissioners Court is answerable to the voters. The Court has been taking a measured approach that balances employee needs with taxpayer needs. Wilco residents, like voters across the nation, are in no mood to tolerate increased government spending and taxes, and we appreciate elected officials who scrutinize such proposals and stay the course for fiscal responsibility.
*The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places the July 2010 unemployment rate at 9.5%, however , the ‘official’ statistics ignore those no longer seeking employment and those underemployed. Even the BLS acknowledges the actual rate is 16.5%, and non-government analysts place the actual unemployment rate anywhere from 22 to 28%.