Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, October 14, 2005

Just in Time for Halloween

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News described Pullman Finance Director Troy Woo’s recent report to the City Council as follows:
The tone of Troy Woo’s voice was grim as he gave a preview of the “bare bones” 2006 budget for the city of Pullman to the City Council Tuesday night.
As usual, medical and salary expenses are going up. And there is the little matter of $191,210 that the Pullman Fire Department has requested. The fire department has been told that is unlikely enough money will be available in the 2006 budget to meet this request. As I have said before, the Neros of PARD will fiddle while Pullman burns.

Yes, the city has seen record numbers of building permits issued this year. But as pointed out by Mark Bordsen, Whitman County planner, "The county really needs sales tax revenue. A house doesn't support that."

Construction at WSU and at the Port of Whitman County is virtually useless, as construction materials for high-tech and biotechnology projects are tax-exempt, and in any case, they are not subject to property taxes after they are built.

Gee, we’ll get a one-time shot from the $86 million reconstruction of the CUB, but again, it is exempt from property taxes.

The article reiterated the damaging effects of I-695 and I-747. The city has lost about $1.3 million in annual revenues and a cap has been put on property taxes, the city’s biggest source of revenue.

Can anyone be so obtuse that they can’t see how Wal-Mart would be the shot-in-the-arm our city finances need?

PARD acknowledges that Wal-Mart will bring in increased sales tax revenue, but they claim any increase will be offset by the social services needed to support the poor Wal-Mart workers who will get paid "slave wages" and receive no benefits.

This in intellectual dishonesty at its worst. PARD took one unsubstantiated story and used it over and over as an argument against tax benefits. It was posted on the liberal Vision 2020 message board story about how the Sojourner’s Alliance of Moscow paid out 14% of it support to Wal-Mart employees and their families and theorizes about how much that costs the state of Idaho.

What is true one place may not be true in another. First of all, find me any retailer anywhere that doesn’t have SOMEONE on public assistance. Secondly, Pullman’s demographics do not support that theory. The average resident of Pullman is 22.5 years old, attends school, is single, has no children, and lives with at least one or more roommate. This is not the typical candidate for welfare or the typical holder of a “family-wage” job. Plus, students have medical benefits through the university. Therefore, it is unlikely that any additional people will be thrown onto public assistance. How would Wal-Mart create poverty anyway? Washington has the highest minimum wage in the country. Pullman has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. No one will put a gun to anyone’s head to work at Wal-Mart. There are dozens are “family-wage” jobs in Pullman that are going begging for applicants right now. But I digress.

The worse half-truth of all is just who pays for social services anyway. In Washington State, the Department of Social and Health Services provides food stamps, cash assistance, indigent health care, etc. Yes, 52% (as of the 2001-2003 biennium) of DSHS’s budget comes from retail sales and use taxes. But that is from the STATE’S portion of the tax. For every $1.00 of retail sales in Pullman, 0.85 cents stays in Pullman, 0.15 cents goes to Whitman County, and 6.6 cents goes to the state’s general fund. It’s simply disingenuous to imply that Pullman will lose tax money because of Wal-Mart.


April E. Coggins said...

This is the arguement that confuses me the most. Assuming that Wal-Mart will not bring in their own pod people, where are these future Wal-Mart workers working now? Are they not working at all or are they working at a job that pays even less than Wal-Mart? Or will Wal-Mart go up on campus, kidnap a bunch of liberal professors and force them to work for minimum wage? From what group of well paid workers will Wal-Mart transform into welfare dependent workers? It makes me dizzy when I try to follow PARDs logic.

Sarcastic Housewife #1 said...

I think PARD would appauld the opening of Wal-Mart in Pullman. Come January 2006 Washington will have the highest minimum wage of any state. Wal-Mart pays minimum wage for some jobs so PARD should consider how those "poor" workers that currently work in the Moscow Wal-Mart must feel. Hmmm....moving to a job in Washington where I'll get paid upwards of $2+ an hour more or stay in Moscow.

April E. Coggins said...

See what I mean? Washington State has much more generous welfare and food stamp programs. It's a well known fact that many poor people move from Idaho to Washington to receive better benefits. Using PARD's plan, Pullman residents who work at Wal-Mart and are on welfare should continue to commute to Moscow to earn $5.25 an hour. Pullman shoppers should continue to shop at Wal-Mart in Moscow and pay Idaho sales tax to support Idaho welfare recipients. PARD is against Pullman residents getting an automatic $2.10 raise, saving gas on the commute and allowing Washington to collect the sales tax necessary to help the poor people who move to Washington from Idaho to get the better welfare.

Tom Forbes said...

The problem for PARD is that none of those highest-minimum-wage-in-the-country-jobs will be paying union dues to the United Food and Commercial Workers. The labor union movement in the U.S. is dying, and liberals like PARD blame Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has 1,700,000 employees. That's more than the all the UFCW membership put together. In the first six months of this year alone, Wal-Mart revenues were $149.2 BILLION The poor UFCW doesn't get a penny of that to add to their paltry $229 million in receipts (as of 2003)

Tom Forbes said...

The Detroit News had an illuminating story about unions. Go to http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0510/17/A01-351179.htm Once you read it you'll see why Wal-Mart stays out of that game.

It seems the United Auto Workers made a deal with the Big 3 auto manufacturers and their suppliers to keep laid-off workers on the payroll. The union thought it would be a disincentive for the auto makers to lay workers off, even after they had made efficiency increases that would replace those workers. It has, so Detroit has shoved out cars dealers haven't requested just to keep the extra workers busy. Wonder why there have been all the "employee price" deals lately? Now you know. Of course, this neagates any efficiency or cost-cutting gains the new technology has given the automakers and hamstrings their competitiveness with foreign automakers who have no such labor troubles.

Some 12,000 union workers have gotten laid off anyway, many of them the oldest and most well-paid workers. One guy gets $31 a hour to sit around and do crossword puzzles and watch videos.