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Incrementalism, part 3: Bryan Gray of the Davis County Clipper

Bryan Gray of the Davis County Clipper gives us an opportunity to revisit the issue of incrementalism. We've previously written two posts on incrementalism. You can view those here and here. Incrementalism is a strategy employed by the spending lobby to gradually increase our tax burdens over time. It has two parts:

1. Justify all or nearly all tax increases as costing only a few pennies per day or a few pennies per purchase

2. Oppose all tax cuts as not worth implementing because these tax cuts will save us only a few pennies per day or purchase.

Of course, over the long term, small tax increases accumulate into large tax burdens, and that's exactly the goal of those who regularly rely on incrementalism to justify tax increases and oppose tax cuts.

In his weekly column last week, Gray wrote

"The proposed tax is only a quarter of 1 percent. If you buy a Subway sandwich, you'll pay an additional penny. Buying property now rather than at a higher price later is a no-brainer."

We naturally agree with the second part that buying transportation corridors is a good idea. In fact, it's one of the items in our four-part transportation reform proposal. However, is another sales tax increase really needed? Government revenues are growing at historically high rates (local sales tax revenues increased 15% in FY2006), and government could spend transportation dollars more efficiently by slowing the growth in vehicle miles traveled by increasing transportation user fees such as congestion pricing and gas taxes (while reducing general taxes to maintain revenue neutrality).

The additional-penny-per-Subway-sandwich argument is not the first time Gray has resorted to incrementalism to support tax hikes. In previous columns, Gray wrote

"If the Open Space proposal passes, a dinner for two at a nice restaurant will skyrocket an entire two cents! If the Open Space proposal passes, the owner of a spanking new Mercedes will pay an extra $40."

"Have yourself a tiny tax increase...Through the year, you'll barely even notice [the tax increase], a dollar here or there"

Note: we could not find links to these comments on the Clipper website. We are relying here on hard copies in our files.

Painting the freeways apricot?
In 2004, Gray wrote "If someone proposed that we pay five cents per year to paint the freeways an apricot color, I'd vote against it". First of all, no one is proposing that, and we can be quite sure that no one will propose that in the future either. While Gray is obviously trying to be funny here, it's clear that he really could not think of a serious tax increase or expenditure to oppose.

Several months ago, Gray also came up with the worst argument to-date against congestion pricing. Read about that here.
Utah Taxpayers Association

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