On November 3, voters will be asked to support yet another tax increase, this time claiming to address the issue of homelessness. The Kalamazoo GOP urges votes to oppose this measure.
Voters in Kalamazoo County are being subjected to more and more taxes. Just in the last year, tax increases for buses and KRESA passed in most of Kalamazoo County. In addition, the legislature passed the “Amazon tax”, and following the defeat of Proposal 1, it is considering a substantial gas tax increase. A city income tax is being discussed in Kalamazoo. We have been taxed enough.
The homeless tax was passed by a 6-5 party-line vote by the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners. It would increase taxes by .1 mills, generating $800,000 per year. Doubtless most of those supporting the millage have good intentions and sincerely want to address the issue of homelessness in Kalamazoo County. But good intentions are not enough to ensure good policy outcomes. Many policy disasters have been caused by people with the best of intentions.
Thus we should ask what the actual effects of this tax increase would be. Recall the basic economic principle of incentives: If you punish something, you will get less of it, and if you reward something, you will get more of it. Thus if people are given money on the condition that they are homeless, you will end up with more homelessness. This may seem counterintuitive to some, but decades of trying to fight poverty with handouts has only served to lock people into poverty.
In addition, increasing property taxes, and hence apartment rents, will make life worse for people who are not homeless. Some people on the margin who are just getting by may actually be pushed into homelessness thanks to this tax.
We should not forget that there is already an institution in this county fighting homelessness—the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. It recognizes that to end homelessness requires not just a handout, but a “hand up”, addressing the behaviors and conditions that lead to homelessness. Creating a new government bureaucracy to compete with the Gospel Mission could undermine its effectiveness. Government is usually more wasteful and less effective than the private sector.
This tax proposal was timed to coincide with city elections in Kalamazoo and Portage, when townships don’t have anything else on the ballot. Please remember to vote on November 3. We urge you to oppose this tax increase.
Kalamazoo GOP Executive Committee