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"What price growth...?"

Can We Afford Prosperity?

The Carnegie Group

Are you tired of endless gas tax increases? Do perennial school levies become a burden? Do you fear that ever-rising property taxes will force you out of your home? You are not paranoid and you are not alone.

The reason why taxes are breaking you is simple. It is the same reason that the state and local governments are broke. And the same reason that schools are always short of funds even though class sizes get bigger and maintenance goes wanting. And the same reason that the ratio of people to parks is increasing and existing parks are closing. The reason is GROWTH; or more specifically how the infrastructure for growth is paid for.

You have probably heard the expression "growth pays for growth". It sounds good; but it is not true. The fact is that each new home built in Washington costs about $80,000 for new infrastructure (roads, schools, power plants, etc) that YOU pay for in ever spiraling taxes. Thus the more growth we have, the poorer you get. It is estimated that every existing taxpayer writes a check every year for at least $1,300 to developers and newcomers, and that really is not enough.

Just as worrisome as your tax burden to subsidize growth, is the fact that many costs of growth are not paid for Ė not by you, not by newcomers, not by anyone. When you donít keep up with costs of growth, roads become parking lots, streams die, parks become crowded. These unfunded costs result in a lower quality of life for us all.

"Growth brings prosperity!" "Grow or die!" We have heard these old saws for so long we accept them without thinking. Who is doing the dying when populations are stable? Who is prospering when our numbers bloat? In periods of high population growth, developers prosper for certain. And the speculators who sell their land to developers prosper. And the newcomers are getting a heck of a deal. But someone has to pay for all this prosperity, and unfortunately it is you.

Perhaps you like the thought of pouring your wages into the pockets of developers and newcomers. But if you do not, relief is available. For many of the costs of population growth, local jurisdictions and school districts can charge fees to new home buyers known by various names: "hook-up charges" or "capital facilities charges" or "impact fees". Simply put, the higher are these capital facilities charges, the lower can be your gas, property, utility, and sales taxes.

Are your representatives watching out for your interests? Are they keeping your tax burden as low as possible? Are they charging all the capital facilities charges that the law allows? In most cases no. In fact many jurisdictions donít charge any growth fees. In Thurston County, jurisdictions, school districts, utilities charge growth a fraction of what they might and depend on you to pick up the rest of the tab. The first step in righting this injustice is to become aware. You just did.


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