We’re Soaking in It
|June 14, 2012||Posted by Lindy Davies under The Obviologist Blog|
Yesterday evening I realized that this blog is, indeed, aptly named. The key to our chronic economic problems is indeed all around us. Truly, unavoidably: everywhere we look.
I was driving in to Belfast, Maine to attend a meeting, The local radio news noted, with some amusement, that our right-wing Tea Party Governor, Paul LePage, and our earthy-crunchy liberal Congresswomen, Chellie Pingree, actually agree about something. What issue would that be, you ask? They both want sales taxes on Internet commerce. The State of Maine, we were told, stands to lose some $39 million in revenue because of untaxed online sales to Maine residents.
When I got to town, our pre-meeting chitchat turned to a $500,000 development grant that the town of Belfast had recently received from the State. The grant is from the state Department of Economic and Community Development, and is targeted toward “slum and blight areas.”
This surprised me a bit, because the town of Belfast, Maine has been doing pretty well in recent years. Once known mainly for its smelly chicken and sardine processing plants, in recent years Belfast has become something of a Destination, with a new Main Street hotel, new art galleries and restaurants and a thriving marina trade. However, the new funds would be applied to some of the side streets, just off the snazzy new downtown zone, that continued to stagnate.
Well, I knew just where they meant: four blocks or so of completely idle land, all of it nice: up a slight rise from the bay shore, fully within sight of the waterfront and right next to a public park. On some of it, a fuel company had once stored large piles of coal. There was a defunct canning plant and a restaurant that had stood boarded up for all of the fifteen years I’ve been in the area. “Oh, that restaurant!” I was told, “Many people have tried to buy that, but the owner won’t sell it.”
So: here we have a couple of acres of prime real estate, whose value has been enhanced by Belfast’s recent growth, but whose owners haven’t yet been tempted to sell. But why, indeed, should they? Their land’s value is about to be jacked up by $500K of snazzy retro streetlights and brick lined walkways, provided by Maine taxpayers!
But the shops on Main Street have it rough, because people are buying things on the Internet and not paying sales taxes. For crying out loud, people! Let’s just remove sales taxes entirely! That would help local business, would it not? We can easily make up the lost revenue by applying a statewide levy to land values. Among its many benefits, that would, most likely, motivate those land speculators, along the waterfront there, to play their part in local revitalization — without having to be bribed with a half million taxpayer dollars!