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Rather Be Fishing

Catch-22 in Iowa?

Not raising taxes will raise taxes, a notion only 'Yossarian' could love

Ever read the book “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller? For those of you who haven’t, it’s a satirical novel set during World War II which follows the main character, “Yossarian,” an Army Air Corps B-25 bombardier in the Mediterranean theatre.

The book is basically a general critique of bureaucratic operation and reasoning – basically, the term catch-22 means a no-win situation.

For the most part, the characters – Milo Minderbinder (my favorite), Captain Aardvark, and Iowan Appleby, among others‹are trying to endure "a nightmarish, absurd existence defined by bureaucracy‹basically, they are inhuman resources" in the eyes of some overzealous and ambitious officers.

An example of the catch-22 logic is when Yossarian finds that he can be discharged because of insanity. But when he claims to be insane, he discovers that by claiming he is insane it proves that he is obviously sane‹ because only a sane person would claim they are insane to avoid flying bombing missions.

It goes on.

Well, I'm starting to feel like we are now caught up in our own catch-22 mode.

Just a few weeks ago, Iowa Governor Chet Culver announced a 10 percent cut in state spending. A television ad argues Culver responded decisively to a budget shortfall without raising taxes.

I get the feeling that the proverbial buck has been passed‹our catch-22.

Here’s my reasoning.

On the one hand we have this budget shortfall “after state tax collections took a nose dive due to the effects of a worldwide recession,” according to the Associated Press.

So, the answer is to eliminate up to 1,300 state jobs and not raise taxes.

Stay with me here. It’s also being estimated that there will be an additional $900 million shortfall for the next budget year that nobody has even talked about, yet. More layoffs?

My question is, if we have this first shortfall because our tax collections have taken a “nose dive,” how is laying off people so they can’t pay taxes – giving us another “nose dive” in tax collections – going to help?

Let’s take this a step further.

At a recent Grinnell-Newburg Community School District school board meeting, J.T. Anderson, board secretary and the business manager for the district, was very honest with everyone.

He estimates that the school district receives upwards of 55 to 60 percent of its revenues from the state of Iowa.

He also believes that could mean at least a $300,000 deficit by the end of the year - about a $1 million decline in funds for the next fiscal year.

Keep in mind, all the school districts in the state are in the same boat.

And, for the most part, it's not the fault of the school districts.

They're doing all they can to provide for the students, faculty, staff and parents of the students.

But they can only do so much, especially if they depend on funds from the state for more than half of their budget.

So, with this shortfall – I’m really starting to hate that word – the school districts around the state will feel budget crunches.

With more than 360 school districts ... well, you do the math.

I have to think that city and county governments will be in the same fix – there are nearly 100 counties in Iowa and 947 cities (Source: Iowa League of Cities) ... again, you do the math.

Some options school boards have to try and alleviate this problem are to retrieve funds from the cash reserves and to try to market their schools to attract more students‹that means Montezuma, BGM and Grinnell schools will compete to attract more area students.

Or, they can raise property taxes.

Now jump over to the city and county governments.

I haven’t heard about how much their budgets will be affected, yet, but you can bet it’ll happen.

So, raising taxes will be an option for local government, too. It’s a never-ending cycle!

The point of all this? While the governor isn’t planning on raising taxes – something, I am sure, will be touted in reelection commercials – the city, county and school districts are now in a situation where to make ends meet, they will probably have to raise taxes.

Catch-22! The state won’t raise taxes, but everyone else will be forced to!

And it gets worse. Many companies and businesses haven't been giving their employees raises. So, as taxes rise, there's no relief at home to help.

Families have to make budget cuts - what do we need most, a lawn mower repaired or the heater in the car fixed? Well, winter is coming so it's a no-brainer.

Most of you know that I don’t profess to being a member of either the Democrat or Republican parties, but my message here is that as long as we as individuals - and we as city, county and school district entities - continue to depend on the state for funding, it’s only going to get worse.

Call it our own catch-22.


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