Clean Elections vs. Vouchers--The Latest Installment
I got a response to the "if school vouchers are OK, then why isn't Clean Elections" columns from Clint Bolick of the Institute for Justice, who is leading the lawsuit against public funding of elections based on the distinction between general versus non-general taxes. Well, targeted taxes, on tourists, is what's building the new NFL stadium. Excuse me, "multipurpose facility" -- which will be available for rent to religious revivals and political conventions, thereby creating First Amendment issues under Bolick's "involuntary association" theory.
It's not true that if you say "new Cardinals stadium" I just hit the F7 key on my computer and a 625-word column spits out. But it's close. Even if the stadium is an old theme, the jokes are new this week. I'm not sure which one I like better, that the Bidwells have managed to create an NFL franchise that plays second fiddle to a hockey team, or the Charlie Brown-Lucy-football joke. We retort, you decide.
Interesting editing change by the editor: The sentence in the fourth graf from the end originally read "But now, having given short shrift to its libertarian principles for a shot at a skybox, the Tribune finds itself watching the stadium drift westward across the Valley like a 70,000 seat dirigible." Oooh--the skybox dig cut too close to the bone. Or maybe it's just that once the paper does get a box, they'll never let editorial page editor Bob Schuster sit in it.
TARGETED TAXES BAD -- UNLESS THEY BOOST STADIUM
East Valley Tribune, August 25, 2002
I thank Clint Bolick for his column Aug. 16, because he gave me a rare and joyous opportunity, to rail about both school vouchers and the new football stadium. Two rants for the price of one!
Let’s recap our argument. Bolick agrees that the law allows, for better or worse, using your tax dollars for speech with which you disagree. The Legislature, or voters by initiative, can pay for press secretaries and self-aggrandizing mailings for incumbents, or vouchers that support other people’s religions. You have no right as a taxpayer to complain that your taxes support speech, or religion, with which you disagree.
Thus, despite some sloppy language in Tribune editorials, there’s no problem with using “your money.” Instead, Clean Elections opponents argue that people who pay parking tickets or court fines are an identifiable “association,” like teachers forced to pay union dues or lawyers who must join the bar association to practice their professions. Pay a speeding ticket, and you belong to a club -- with greater rights than ordinary taxpayers.
That’s Bolick’s theory. I think it’s bogus, but the Arizona Supreme Court will decide this argument for us.
But the more interesting part of Bolick’s diatribe was his opprobrium against nongeneral taxes. He argues that voters were seduced into supporting Clean Elections because the drafters “designed a scheme that other people would have to pay for” instead of using general tax revenues. Boo! Bolick says this is a bad thing: “Any time government imposes a special tax on a discrete group of people, the courts get suspicious.” Hiss!
It sure sounds bad -- picking on only certain people to pay for some grandiose project that benefits a chosen few. It must make your bile rise, knowing that there are money-grubbing schemers who, for their own personal benefit, craft these underhanded, sneaky ways to tax folks who don’t know or who can’t complain. There ought to be a law, to prevent insiders from scooping up money from some disfavored group and using for their own pet schemes:
Just like the new Cardinals stadium, funded by tourism taxes.
Apparently, there are times when “designing a scheme that other people would have to pay for” is a wonderful way to fund new fields for youth sports, improvements to Cactus League ballparks, and some sort of “multipurpose facility” occasionally useful for the odd professional football or college bowl game. Sometimes we’re supposed to stand up and cheer when “government imposes a special tax on a discrete group of people.”
The fact that tourists, who couldn’t vote here, would pay for the stadium wasn’t a problem; it was a major reason to vote for the tax. Apparently, it just depends on where the money goes, or else this principle about general taxation only applies to stop more important stuff, and doesn’t affect stupid public works projects that might serve the greater economic glory of the East Valley.
At least The Tribune, a tireless stadium booster, had the grace to let somebody else make the “other people paying is bad” argument. But now, having given short shrift to its libertarian principles for a shot at a skybox, The Tribune finds itself watching the stadium drift westward across the Valley like a 70,000-seat dirigible.
Suddenly, the Cardinals are headed to Glendale, where these tourism taxes will help bail out the Coyotes arena project. Only the Bidwells could own an NFL franchise that plays second fiddle to a hockey team. And only the political might of what Jon Talton calls the “real estate industrial complex” could explain why this particular “other people’s money” rabbit will get pulled out of Glendale’s hat.
You gotta feel for Mesa Councilman Mike Whalen, and for The Tribune. They’re Charlie Brown. The Bidwells are the football.
Aren’t you the least bit curious about who is Lucy?