While I had Mayor Tom Leppert on the phone Monday evening, to discuss the walkout by six council members before the tax-rate hike briefing even got going, we talked for a few minuts about his opposition to a property tax hike. He acknowledged: Yes, some council members are leaning that way: "Some are for two cents, some are for three and four."
And, yes, he said, he's been to those budget town halls where some attendees are asking for tax hikes to "restore essential services that have been eviscerated," in the words of Angela Hunt Monday evening. And while the mayor said he "will continue to listen" to voters, he cautioned:
"At these meetings, you're getting people with special interests in a specific program, and to get its funding back they want a tax hike," he said. "But even if you do [get one], where does the actually money go? ... Everybody assumes [the money from a tax hike] will go to those special interests, and it may or may not."
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He then ticked off "two concerns" regarding some folks' call for a tax-rate hike.
"My two concerns are, first, there are a lot of people who don't go to these town halls," he said. "They're off working. They're people who've had a tough time, who are spending all their times at their businesses, and the last thing they need is another bill from the government. And you need to keep in mind, we have a relatively high tax rate and what we'll do over time -- and it doesn't just happen today or tomorrow -- is, all of the sudden you make it so businesses and individuals will go someplace else, and it's the revenue we lose. I want to build tax revenue. I just want it to come from new businesses and new industries moving into Dallas. I don't want it coming on the shoulders of the people who live here.
"Second thing is: Let's say next year revenue rises. Government has not shown a propensity to give those dollars back, so I'd argue there's some discipline that needs to go into that too. You see it in businesses that have had a bad couple of years. They've needed cut things they'd like to do that they're not able to do. You have families I'm sure you know where they've had to go without things. Hopefully the economy does better, and when it does, that's how we get tax revenue."
But Leppert acknowledged: Monday evening's adios could be a sign of things to come. "The process," he said, "has not played out. Some will make arguments [for a tax hike], others on the other side will make theirs. This will play out, and it'll be what it is."