Protected: Raising the sales tax is not the answer to GCRTA’s funding woes

      Enter your password to view comments.

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

  • Usually I agree with you but I’m not convinced here. I think a five-county tax is not a good idea. Why would people who moved to Geauga County to avoid paying taxes and live on huge lots agree to pay higher taxes for transit service they obviously don’t value and which really can’t do a good job of serving them, given that they live on huge lots.

    • Tim

      Incorporating the collar counties is something that transit advocates have called for in this region for decades, which is why I posited it as an option. All those people who call for the expansion of the Red Line into Lake County are making this argument, regardless of whether or not they realize it. I don’t specify which counties should be incorporated if we went that route, though I don’t see a reason why Geauga needs to be included. It is still predominantly rural or exurban and lacks the population density to make transit feasible at all. I don’t see why we allow a county with 90,000 people to dominate so much of our regional conversation.

      But once we set aside Geauga, we can see that each of the other 3 collar counties *already have transit authorities,* which is another example of unnecessary duplication of bureaucratic entities in this region. Combining GCRTA, Laketran, Medina County Transit, the Brunswick Transit Alternative, and Lorain County Transit into a combined, truly regional transit authority would strengthen all of these entities going forward.

      That said, doing that would be damn near politically impossible, as it would require voter approval from each county and legislative approval from each entity. The parking tax is my preference, hence why I have written about it at length. If we have to spend political capital, spend it on something that makes sense.

      • Here’s my other critique. I agree that the sales tax is already too high. And that it is regressive. But I don’t think having a regressive tax is really such a big problem if it supports a service that on balance benefits poorer people more. I think we should talk about our options, but I don’t think the sales tax hike should be written off at all.

        • Here’s the other problem as I see it with taxing multiple counties, even if it was politically possible, and I agree that it’d be very difficult. In order to make it work politically, there would need to be a lot of emphasis on long-distance routes to suburban locations that probably wouldn’t be very well used. I wonder if it would be possible for certain zones within outlying counties to opt in to RTA.

          • Tim

            I don’t agree on the utility of raising the sales tax further, so I guess we’ll agree to disagree on that. It’s inherently regressive, will be borne more heavily by people who can’t shirk it by leaving the county for large purchase (making it even more regressive), is politically unpopular, and just increases the already high tax burden on the people of a stagnant county.

            As to your other question, Ohio Revised Code § 306.321 specifies the conditions under which jurisdictions can join an RTA. Any jurisdiction can do so if it pleases, but its leaders have to approve it, and its voters have to approve levying the tax upon themselves in a referendum.

        • neroden

          Is it even possible to raise a progressive tax at any level below the state level? Income tax can be highly progressive, but I don’t think the cities and counties are allowed to have income taxes.

          Regressive taxes may be the only tax option which is legal without state cooperation. Property tax is *slightly* more progressive than sales tax but not very.

  • Cleveland Streetcar

    Great post Tim.

    it hurts us to continue to pursue the same policy which may not be relevant to the needs of our community today and tomorrow.

  • neroden

    I have to correct one point. Honest economists generally prefer progressive income taxes to sales taxes, because income taxes which are higher on rich people actually *fix* a distortion. (Income taxes on poor people are a problem. Income taxes on rich people are 100% good. For the exceedingly wonky reasons why, look up “diminishing marginal utility of income and wealth”.)

    There are a lot of dishonest economists who are just lackeys for rich people who want lower taxes, though.

  • Pingback: What's really behind GCRTA's falling ridership levels?()