You might be familiar with the famous children’s fable titled, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
In that story, a boy with a flock of sheep repeatedly tricks his fellow villagers into believing a wolf is attacking his animals. After being fooled time and again, the villagers stop believing the boy because they just assume he is raising another false alarm.
As the fable concludes, the wolf actually does attack the boy’s sheep flock. Unfortunately, nobody comes to his aid when there really is a true emergency because he had eroded all of his credibility.
As it turns out, this story is illustrative of what is happening right now with government at all levels.
All too often, year after year, dire predictions are concocted by various groups, special interests, local officials and others about what “will happen” if taxes are lowered or spending is reduced by lawmakers only to find the real outcome to be far different than their usual ominous threats.
While such predictions may serve to generate news headlines and stir up emotions, they are often not based on reality or the full set of facts.
In several instances, the actual result was a far cry from the doom and gloom forecasted.
A recent story in The Des Moines Register about teacher layoffs proved this point. School officials and union bosses had said for months that statewide layoffs of teachers would be close to 1500 if zero percent allowable growth was allowed. The story went on to say the actual result will be closer to 100 positions statewide and most of those are a result of retirements, loss of student enrollment and one-time dollars from the federal stimulus running out.
As the facts would have it, zero percent allowable growth actually provides more state money to local schools than they received after Governor Culver made his disastrous across-the-board cut.
In addition, because of their heavy reliance on property taxes, many local officials have openly attacked the comprehensive property tax relief bill pushed by Governor Branstad that recently passed the Iowa House with bi-partisan support. In doing so, they claimed it will devastate their city budgets.
Contrary to what these critics contend, cities will continue to see increases in revenue. However, because this bill will prevent the largest property tax increase in Iowa history due to the property tax formula – $1.3 billion over the next five years (much of which will go to cities) – their revenues will grow at a far more responsible level than what they would if this bill did not pass and nothing happened.
This graph below does a good job showing the constant growth in money available to governments in Iowa over the last ten years.
As you can see, local governments have had literally no problems with revenue during this time.
For too long, Iowans have paid dearly for following these “crying wolf” scenarios painted by those who wish to inflate the size and scope of government at all levels.
What has that mentality produced?
We have some of the highest property taxes in the nation – putting us at a competitive disadvantage with other states. We have a state budget which has grown steadily over the last several years while we face unacceptable unemployment. We have an education system that is continually well funded but has not produced student achievement results that place us anywhere near the top of the class.
Our taxpayers cannot continue to pay out of pocket for every “crying wolf.”
Instead, we need to get all of the facts and understand how much value we – the taxpayers – are getting out of the money we already are spending.
We would all be better served if every level of government were more accountable for the results – and statements – they produce.
State Senator Paul McKinley (R-Chariton) is the Iowa Senate Minority Leader