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Pullman herald. [volume] (Pullman, W.T. [Wash.]) 1888-1989, February 17, 1922, Image 9

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Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88085488/1922-02-17/ed-1/seq-9/

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FrldS. February »T. 10-_
Senator Wilmer Discusses Taxes
;; i..,.iii_ the Burden; of Taxes
j,, ; \e«- ■'•* ™*
, . „ Wider Distribution of tin-
Tax Load
One of the ablest and most
thoagtful discussions °* the tax
auestion at the meeting held ... Col;
fax ,_. Saturday was given by State
Senator W''n>e r of Rosalia, who read
the following >"'■ '
i What I shall say will he from the
I standpoint of farm taxation, for two
'reasons. First, farm property com
.rises nearly 70 per cent of the as
sessable property in Whitman coun
ty gad more than 80 per cent other]
than railway property. Second, it
is the common belief that the agri
cultural depression is what is hold
ing back national prosperity. in
whitman county, at least, taxes are
one of the principal causes for the j
depression. Therefore we are all in- j
terested in the mitigation of the evil
whether we are farmers, merchants,
* hankers or professional men.
Utter-war readjustments have I
taken place with most things, but
taxes remain at the peak load. Ag
riculture is in acute distress. Land
values, and farm prices have fallen
to 1914 levels, but farm taxes are
three times what they were in 1914.
Business waits on the farmer for |
the forward march, hut the farmer, |
staggering under the tax load, can- 1
not fall in step. National prosperity
is halted by the agricultural depres
sion. The problem therefore is not
to the farmer alone. Other tribula- j
tions yet beset him. but taxes remain
the most grievous.
Taxes must he reduced, but how, j
and to what extent?
Since farm products are at 1914 j
price levels, farm expenses yet aver- |
age higher, and farm taxes are'
three times as great as in 1914, a
reduction of 50 per cent will yet
leave farm taxes 50 per cent higher j
than in 1914, and no less reduction j
can be regarded as adequate. ■
It is obvious that taxes can be re
duced by two processes only. By
reducing expenditures.and by wider
distribution of the tax load. How
far can reductions be effected by sav
ings in expenditures? Let us look
into this. The average farm tax
levy for the current year in Whit
man county is 41.4 mills. All good
land without Improvements east, of
the north and south line through
the middle of range 4?,, approximate-1
ly the line of the state road, Rosalia j
to Colfax, is assessed at $40 per
acre. The average tax is $264.96.
West of that line valuations step
down in three mile steps of $3.00 j
per acre. The average assessment!
is $27. per acre, about two-thirds of
that of the eastern section, Fifty
one cents on the farm tax dollar
goes for education, or Kill per quar
ter of land in the eastern section
and two-thirds as much average in
the western section. Of this $136
school tax, higher education gets
about $17 or 6"4 cents of the tax
dollar. This tax has been fixed by j
law for the next four years, at the |
present rate. The demands of these
institutions were much scaled down |
at the last session. They are now !
overcrowded, lack buildings and
equipment. The University and
State College are no longer free
BChools, a tuition charge for students
from outside the state having been
established at the last session. The
desire for higher education is In
creasing, and with the growth of
population, I see no prospect for a .
diminution of this tax.
Through the operation of the 20- j
10 plan of the state school tax, more
than £100,000 is lost to the county,
about five cents of the tax dollar,
t\4 to the quarter section. If the
30-10 plan now urged is adopted, li j
will cost the county an increase of |
more than $100,000 additional, in
This leaves about $106 of the
school tax per quarter, 40 cents of j
the tax dollar that is expended in !
our county schools. Since more than I
two-thirds of our school expense is j
for teachers' salaries, the uestion of
teachers' salaries can not be ignored
in this discussion. Other school ex
mg. bond and interest requirements,
Ing, bond an dinterest requirements,!
that can not be reduced. To make
saving, either salaries must be scaled
".teed, by eliminating such subjects
as manual training, domestic science,
Physical training, music and the
commercial course. We must be j
eyeful in what we do to our schools.
Education is of the highest impor
ance. The future of our country
depend- upon it ,am not one who
Aleves that the salaries of our fe
male teachers should be placed at a
Parity with the domestics in our
nonseholds, or with stenographers,
or clerks in mercantile establish
ments. The highly qualified teach-
r > we want none other, has spent
*•»'• in preparation for her work.
teaching i 8 hard work, I have had
"Perience. The hours are not limlt
ibu° waool hours; any teacher sens
» of her responsibilities will work
'east half as many hours outside
"'' "'" school room. There la not
full year employment, and the sum
mer vacation offers meager oppor
tunities for earning. Moreover be
cause of the prevalent conception
lhat teachers enjoy munificent sal
aries, they are held up for extortion
ate living charges*' The pretext is
"salaries remain unchanged; why re
duce board?'* It is plain profiteer
1 Teachers' salaries should be suffi
cient to keep the more capable men
and women in ihe profession, and
maintain a sufficient supply to per
mit the weeding put of unworthy
teachers, In ray opinion the ques
'i'"l of salaries in Whitman county
should be worked out by a board or
commission, consisting of an equal
number of teachers, school directors,
and taxpayers. Salaries should be
standardized on the basis of all fac
tors affecting service. This would
obviate the haggling and bargaining,
and jumping of contracts, and other
discreditable features Incidental to
the annual reorganisation of the
teaching corps.
This board, if com,ids,. 0 fair
minded men and women, could iron
out many wrinkles, and remove
much misunderstanding. Probably
it would result in a moderate read
justment of salaries at this time. But
that is only reasonable, Sacrifices
will be required of all before we are
again at normalcy. Later it might
serve as a protection to teachers
Reports from state normal schools
show an increase of attendance the
present year of nearly 65 per cent.
What will he done in a few years
with the influx of new teachers?
But where are we getting with the
reduction of the $136 school tax?
Not very .far, I fear.
Roads are the next big item, $81
per quarter, .11 cents of the tax dol
lar. Of this the state levy for roads
gets $18, Donahoe roads $16, road
and bridge $17, and road district
$31, a part of the latter for Donahoe
roads also. Roads are not so vital
as education. Stop building if we
please. We have practically stopped
building hard surfaced roads in
Whitman county. But we can not
cut, off all road taxes. To stop build
ing state roads would be downright
bad faith to section- of the state that
have been paying road taxes for
years, and are yet waiting their
turns, and it will be poor business
to lei the roads we have built go to
destruction. We will be paying Don
ahoe road taxes for nearly 10 years
for the Donahoe roads now built.
We can cut road and bridge and road
district some if we wish, -lust peti
t it. ion the county commissioners
not to work our country roads,
not to drag the roads, to build no
bridges, and they will cut these levies
1 am sure. But things will become
very quiet around the commissioners'
office on commissioners' days. No
more delegations from all over the
county asking for roads. What are
the prospects for a bi:: saving in
road taxes?
We now have left 18 cents of the
rent year it is about. $125,000. Not
quite 6 cents, $15 of this goes for
county expense. In 1914, county ex
pense was about $100,000. The cur
rent yar it is about $125,000. Not
all of the $25,000 increase can be
saved, because things yet cost more
than in 1914. Some might he saved,
but the commissioners would prob
ably ask us to show them how.
The Impression is so common that
the legislature by its extravagance
is accountable for high taxes, that
I wish to go into some detail with
the 12. cents of the tax dollar, the
$32 yet remaining, which goes for
state expense.
Some of you may not know that
the state has 12 institutions in
which it cares for Its criminals, its
insane and defectives, the blind and
deaf, delinquent boys and girls and
the war veterans. These institu
tions have 6600 Inmates, The in
sane alone number more than 3500,
and it costs more than $2,1 ,000
per annum to care for all these un
fortunates. This takes 5 cents of
the 12 cents, $13 of the $32 total,
for state expense. During the past
year the inmates have increased
more than 300; they will continue to
Increase, and there is no hope for a
saving here.
The next item is the soldiers'
bonus. It takes nearly 2, cents of
the tax dollar, $7.00 per quarter.
The people voted for this, and it will
take years to pay for It.
Capitol building gets one and one
third cents, $3.60 per quarter. I
doubt whether we should be putting
nearly $600,000 per annum into
these buildings in these times. State
reclamation gets the same as the
state capitoi. The money is loaned
mostly to irrigation projects, and it
is presumed will be repaid to the
state some day.
This leaves us the last 1%
cents of the tax dollar, $4.60
per quarter, in the spending of
which the legislature riots in ex
travagance. If we could cut It all
out, abolish the legislature, the gov-
"■nor. all the state officers and de-j
partments, the supreme, court, and' .
one-half of the county superior court ||
judges who are paid by the state, J (
we would save one and threo-quar- '<
tors cents ot the tax dollar, $4.60 j|
per quarter. If there Is extra vn- <
gance in the state department*, ' I
do not attempt to Justify it, but J
whatever are the facts, this state <
expense of $4.00 per quarter is not I
i what is hurting you moat, in the.':
' $264.96 taxes you pay. I]
Now we have considered the whole <
too cents of the tax dollar but where <
can we save the DO of them? II .by jj
trimming school expense, marking ]<
time with our roads, introducing the <
utmost efficiency and economy In all |
branches of state and county gov-'^
eminent, we can save 20 couts of , I
the tax dollar, it will be truly a not- ;J
able achievement, and the gains may ,
be largely offset by the repeal of 4
the poll tax. and the passage of the H
30-10 measure. 'J
I ■
Now let us turn to the other ex- ' .
pedient, the easing of the tax burden <
by it wider distribution of the tax,<
load Do many people now escape!]
taxation wholly or in the greater, <
part? M
j A painstaking investigation dis-w
closed the startling fact that In <
school district No, 190, comprising,
the town of Rosalia and about 27 j<
sections of land adjacent, 60 peril
cent of the voters either pay no taxes, I ]
pay but nominal tuxes, or can pass i
on the tax directly to the consumer, it
The taxpayer is often charged with r
apathy and indifference. The fact (
is his voice is smothered by the 1 '
clamor of the majority for expend.- J
lures, to which they contribute vir- i
tually nothing. '
If the 60 per cent tax free were i
required to bear their part of the '
tax load, commensurate with their ,
I ability to pay, then with such reduc- i
tions as can he secured by the ut- '
most efficiency and economy, we ,
would have solved the tax problem. <
Of the tax exempt, the most evas- '
ive are the people of means who
cleverly confine their investments to .
interest hearing securities that en
tirely escape taxation in this state.
This class is the best able of all to
pay taxes.
The most practical way to reach
. them is by a state income tax, and
; the prohibition of tax exempt securi
i ties. With a low income tax rate.
i and low exemptions, particularly for
| single persons without dependents, a
I large number of people could be
reached who now escape all taxation.
Such an income tax would also reach
i the rapidly growing salaried and
1 professional classes, who now pay
j negligible taxes. Then we have the
j Innumerable class of spenders, the
floating population, the improvident
who never become taxpayers. They
absorb their per capita of public ex
penditures yet pay not a cent in a
lifetime to their support. They \
should pay something. They were
the objectives of the poll tax, but
could be reached better by a small
consumption tax. This would be
fairer than the poll tax because it j
.Would he a graduated tax; the mdi-,
: vidua 1 of small means paying hut
little; he of larger spending ability j
paying proportionately.
j What is the prospect for the pass- |
age of laws calculated to shift a part '
; of the tax burden to the now tax j
exempt? Frankly, 1 say to you, Ido j
not regard it as very good, but per- j
s haps a beginning will be made at the
next session. But when an attempt
: Is made to saddle the tax exempt
i with a part of the tax load, they will
shy off.' The mere mention of a new
tax raises a storm of protest, in
j which even some taxpayers join. It
is strange that a taxpayer cannot see
that a new tax that will bring other
\ shoulders to the wheel at which he
i Is now pushing so hard, will make
the load more easy for him.
I The great obstacle to easier taxes
is the "atandpat" viewpoint to leave
taxes as they are, and get relief from
; less expenditures, when 1 have shown
you that it is impossible to get suffi
cient relief that way, because the
voting majority do not feel the taxes
I and will not permit of such savings.
Then what shall we do about taxes?
'Is the case hopeless? Must we just
, He down and wait for dissolution.
' Never say die. The situation is seri- I
'. ous but not without hope. Taxes
! now really hurt. The sharpness of i
j the pain will stir the taxpayer, will
! cause him to look into the tax ques
-1 tion. Educational work should be
carried on in every community by
local taxpayers' organizations. Do
j not be frightened by the complexity
iof the question. A little patient
' study will make it, all plain. Look
closely into your local expenditures.
| Some saving will result and that
I much be gained. A fuller under
■ standing of the question will force
the conviction on the taxpayer that
so long as the Intolerable situation
remains In which the tax free ma
jority rides the backs of the minori
ty, no real relief will be experienced. I
But we may hope for help from
another quarter. Not all the tax
exempt are parasites. Many willing
, ly would carry their part of the load.
(Continued on page ten)
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