BY LOWELL KALAPA – Taxpayers watching the latest spate of political advertisements may believe that the state’s next leader will bring “change,” but that change won’t happen if voters don’t get out and vote this week.
Voting sends a message that one candidate’s promises are more meaningful than his or her opponent’s promises. But promises are just promises, until fulfilled they are merely platitudes that the candidates want voters to believe will be on the agenda once they get elected.
Candidates take polls and surveys to get a handle on what voters want in their government before putting together the platform on which they campaign. The question voters need to ask themselves is which of the candidates best reflects their own vision of what government should do – or not do as the case may be. One of the major concerns this election season at the national level is the soaring cost of government. Congressional candidates are running for cover as the prospects of a growing deficit getting well out of hand materialize.
Here at the state and local level, similar concerns have taken center stage in the aftermath of severe budget cuts, furloughs, and revenue shortfalls which prompted another round of tax increases both at the state and county levels. Not only are voters anxious, but even public employees are uncertain about their future as employment security in the public sector can no longer be taken for granted.
In fact, fearing that more cuts are yet to come, those public employees with sufficient years of service and those who have attained the minimum retirement age have either retired or are seriously contemplating retirement. And as health care costs soar, the potential for losing some of the very generous post retirement benefits has public employees also scrambling.
So what will our new political leaders do once they are elected this week? Some have promised greater efficiency while others have focused on fixing education or fixing the economy, or securing energy independence. What they haven’t addressed is how they are going to get the state or county governments out of red ink, perhaps pinning their hopes on economic recovery.
The problem is that there cannot be a vibrant economy if government continues to weigh it down with increasing costs with everything from higher taxes to increased user fees and charges. At some point – a point which for some has already been reached – businesses close their doors, lay off employees and families either go on unemployment or welfare doubling up with another family for shelter, live on the beach, or for those who can, move out of state.
What is most laughable is that so many candidates are “hugging trees” this campaign season insisting that they are striving to make our state and nation energy independent. And while having a sustainable renewable energy source is something we should strive for, we should not do so while ignoring some of the basic problems affecting our economy. This diversion of the voters’ attention is no more evident than in the turmoil surrounding the Congressional midterm elections.
After two weary years of a grandiose agenda to adopt a national health care plan and spending billions of dollars to “stimulate” the economy, supporters of the administration’s strategy realize that the real issue the American people want addressed is the economy and the restoration of jobs. Although some argue that the “stimulus” package was supposed to “jump-start” the economy and create much needed jobs, they now realize that “real” jobs are created by the private sector and not by government. The stimulus package also put government in direct competition with the private sector for credit as the stimulus spending was deficit spending.
Here at home the same can be said at the state and county levels where policymakers could not rein in government spending, resorting instead to increasing taxes and fees, taking even more resources out of the economy to keep government going at the same pace. Although many of the increased taxes and fees were targeted at well-defined constituencies, lawmakers cringed at the thought of adopting a broad tax increase because it was an election year and they would have faced stiff opposition at the ballot box this week.
Therefore, it is even more important that voters/taxpayers pay attention to the promises made by candidates. The promise of more services and programs is a promise that candidates will have to increase taxes in order to pay for those promises.