No such thing as fair tax, fee or assessment from any government

“To tax and to please, no more than to love and to be wise, is not given to men.”  — Edmund Burke, 18th century British statesman and writer, who was born in Ireland

The recent discussions about taxes (should the borough institute a bed tax?), “special assessments” (like the one Homer residents will pay for their natural gas line) and other fees we pay local government (for example, for our water and sewer service) is enough to make everyone’s head spin. It’s clear there’s no such thing as “fair” when it comes to taxes and other government fees. If you’re paying more for essentially the same service as everyone else, you feel like you’re being robbed; if you somehow get to pay less, then it’s a lot easier to support whatever the tax or assessment or fee is.

Seeing the big picture, when it comes to taxes and other money we pay to government, is almost impossible. Even though we know taxes are, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once put it, the price “we pay for civilized society,” our judgment gets clouded when our wallets are emptied.

We’re convinced that no matter what tax (or assessment or fee) we’re talking, there’s no way to make everyone happy. So that shouldn’t be the goal. Instead, we need to ask ourselves every time: Does this serve the greatest community good? Is it as fair as possible? 

Concerning the potential bed tax, residents and business owners will have the opportunity to hear the pros and cons of the proposal at a forum sponsored by the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center today at 6:30 p.m. at the Best Western Bidarka Inn. The forum seems especially meaningful since the southern Kenai Peninsula representatives on the borough assembly are on opposite sides of this issue and will be among those making the case for and against the bed tax. Assembly member Bill Smith of Homer, introduced the bed tax proposal; assembly member Mako Haggerty, who represents other parts of the southern peninsula, is opposing the tax. Their different positions are a good reminder that neighbors can have all the same information about an issue and arrive at different conclusions. That said, let’s not let this issue divide us.

On the natural gas assessments, particularly pertaining to condo owners, we thought Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet’s decision put the matter to rest when he wrote: “The city’s assessment with respect to condominium owners is arbitrary and unreasonable.”

However, the city currently is looking at Huguelet’s decision, and re-evaluating and researching how condos will be assessed. City Manager Walt Wrede hopes to have recommendations about how to proceed with condominium assessments at the Homer City Council’s July 28 meeting. We’re willing to wait for those recommendations; our hope is they won’t lead to more litigation.

On the water and sewer rates, while there may still be some tweaking to do, the council made the right decision by leaving them in place for the time being. It’s summer, after all, and people need to be out making a living so they can afford all those taxes, assessments and fees that allow them to live the good life in Homer.