All right, I too am a Yankee. I was raised in Illinois and received my bachelor’s degree in Missouri, both facts of which I am very proud. I was reared in a state where paying state income tax was the norm, and when I moved to Texas, one of the selling points to my wife and me was the simple fact that Texas has no state income tax.
I was recently lamenting to a friend of mine from another upper plain state that the property I own in Illinois was recently reassessed by the Pike County tax assessor and collector. My friend stated, “You could live in Texas with low taxes and no services or live in Illinois with higher taxes and more services.”
I am not against some raise in assessed value; however the assessment on parts of the property went up 300 percent. I spoke with my father in-law regarding this, as he happens to own many more acres than do I, only to realize he was in the same kettle of fish. Some will wonder if improvements were made to the land. Well, no, in fact most of my land is river bottom in Illinois River floodplain. I have not produced a crop in two out of the last three years. The land is not fallow, but is better for fishing than raising corn and soybeans.
I have protested with the tax collector, as has he, as has every person I know in Pike County, Ill. I have not heard the outcome of my protest, but am pretty confident my position will hold no water with the elected officials.
My tax problem made me do a little research, and this is what I have found. Illinois is believed to be carrying $106 billion in debt; Texas has a mere $26 Billion. Texas boasts a population of 23.5 million citizens to Illinois’ 12.8 million. I have lived in both states and believe I, for one, would take the lower debt. I however, unlike my friend, do not see the difference in state services.
I will grant that Illinois must prepare for winter snow storms and purchase salt, cinder and sand by the mountain. (Mountain is not a unit of measure but for these purposes it illustrates the height, length and breadth well.) In the same breath as the aforementioned, Texas must deal with a yearly hurricane landfall or two.
Illinois and Texas both have state police, health departments, departments of transportation and run adjacent programs concerning almost every topic. Where’s the difference? I cannot see it.
“Services” implies the government is doing something worthy. I am hard-pressed to find a noble or worthy cause the government is engaged in, other than the military. I do not believe services makes a country or state great, or for that matter the lack there-of. I do however believe people make a country or state great. The independent spirit of the Texans I have met make me proud to be associated with such fine citizens. These are not persons that would spend all afternoon waiting for “services.” Heck no, they will be out finding or making their own place in the world. “Services” over the long-haul tend to weaken our own resolve, our own character and our own beliefs.
“Services” generally takes dollars out of the economy as a whole, razing most persons at the knees rather than allowing persons to stand on their own, moving capital from the private producers of wealth to the public takers of wealth. “Services” provided by government rarely, if ever, fulfill the promises made by our elected leaders. I do not believe economics is a zero sum game, and to those of you wise enough to prescribe to Smith rather than Keynes, I am in your corner. The scariest words I could ever hear are “I am from the government and I’m here to help.”
I for one count myself an optimist and believe in the spirit of the American people… not the American government. To quote Thomas Jefferson, “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned — this is the sum of good government.”
Art Veneris is production manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. He writes his column for the Brownwood Bulletin on Thursdays. He may be reached by e-mail at art.veneris@brownwood