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How to Prolong a Recession: Tax Driveways

What if you owned a small business?  What if you owned a small business and your customers came to your store or office?  What if you owned a small business where your customers came to your store or office, and parked in your parking lot?  What if you owned a small business where your customers came to your store or office, parked in your parking lot, and the government made you pay taxes for each and every car?

Would you still own a small business?

These may sound like hypothetical questions, but for a city in Kansas, they have become reality.  Last night, the city of Mission passed a new tax on driveways.   Yes, driveways.  Home owners will pay $72 each year for having a driveway.

Business owners, though, take the biggest hit in this new tax, which is being hailed as “revolutionary” and “ground-breaking.”  Beginning in December, all businesses will be taxed a fee of at least $3,558 per year.

But wait- it gets better…  Let’s say that you own a local bank, where customers come in to see you for home loans, business improvement packages, or simply to put money aside for the future.  You could owe the city $5,659 per year.  Maybe you own a local fast food franchise- do you have an extra $12,200 sitting around?  Because that’s how much you could be paying.  Maybe you work at a local Target- where the annual tax would amount to a whopping $64,750 per year.

Government charging businesses for having customers.  Doesn’t that sound like penalizing businesses for doing business?  (You know, investing in our economy?)  Because it sure sounds that way to me.

Let’s be honest, here- a small business owner taking on an additional $3,000-5,000 in taxes between now and December?  That could absolutely mean no Christmas bonuses for the employees.  Or how about that $65,000 tax on the local Target?  Do you think corporate headquarters will feel the brunt of that?  No, it will be the cashiers, customer service representatives, and cart shufflers who get laid off, or don’t get a raise.  The people who rely most on those jobs- and of course, the increased cost of doing business will be passed on to you and me, every time we visit that bank, eat at that restaurant, or shop at that store.

One last thing I forgot to tell you- Mission is very close to the Missouri state line.  After the Kansas legislature passed the second largest tax increase in our history- increasing sales tax in the entire state- and now that the city of Mission is burdening businesses in this manner… how many businesses do you think will stay in Kansas (much less Mission)?  How many will cross over into nearby Missouri?  How many new businesses will we attract?  And how many jobs will be lost, whether now or in the future, because of the elected officials’ decision last night?

We talk a lot about focusing local.  Chances are, if you own or are employed in a Merriam business, you understand the costs of elected officials who do not understand the importance of limited government on the local level.

Oh, one more thing- that tax?  Do you know what it’s going to pay for?  Transportation projects including a new express bus service to the upscale Country Club Plaza.  Help me here.  If you’re going to shop at Armani, Tiffany’s, Brooks Brothers or J. Crew- are you really going to be riding in a bus to get there?

It doesn’t make much sense to me, burdening families during a recession, when goodness knows we’re all tightening our belts as much as we can already. It makes even less sense to further burden the businesses that employ our spouses, friends and neighbors in the middle of a recession that no one sees a fast track out of.  Don’t worry though… I’m sure government officials know better than me.  After all, the mayor of Mission?  She is an attorney who “represents individuals and small businesses.”  And I’m sure the city really does need the money… after all, Mission is only spending $2,837,785 on Parks and Recreation in 2010.

Special thanks to Chris Stigall with the KCMO Morning Show with Chris Stigall for the background information in this story.