Mauldin’s Regressive Garbage Tax Just a Scam to Encourage Illegal Dumping

So you’re a city council member of a small town in a red state that is seeing record population growth but dismal unemployment numbers and you’re desperate to find funding for city services. You can’t simply raise taxes because people are moving into the area specifically to escape the high taxes of the northeast, and a sudden announcement of tax increases may spook the unsettled newcomers into picking up and heading further south. Quite a pickle, wouldn’t you say?

But then inspiration strikes! All these Yankee carpetbaggers from up north are “green” so what if you create a tax that seems like it’s designed to not just raise money but help save poor old mother earth? After all, we’ve all seen Dances with Space Wolves, I mean Avatar. Planet good, humans bad and everybody wants to help the good planet by punishing people for being people, right?

What if you force residents to buy special trash bags that go for $2 a pop manufactured by a local company who may or may not have an in with government officials and whose business model is based on lobbying for corporatist policies? Why, the city could save a bundle and inflict a tax on residents that we northerners/hippies/suckers will be glad to pay, right?

Wrong:

A new solid-waste reduction program that the city of Mauldin is considering to bring in more revenue to its cash-strapped budget for next year could generate more than $585,000 and save the city in landfill costs but would have residents footing the bill.

City residents were critical, and some, outraged, by the “pay as you throw” program, which requires some households to purchase a special trash bag that costs about $2 a bag and is only manufactured by WasteZero, a company based in Murrells Inlet.

“We’re giving up our freedom as citizens of Mauldin. We’ll no longer have a choice. We’re being mandated and told that we absolutely have to buy this bag,” resident Dan Herren said.

Joe Morris, vice president of business development for WasteZero, said the PAYT program would double Mauldin’s current 11 percent recycling rate and save the city at least $160,000 in landfill costs.

“By charging for each bag of trash, citizens will be encouraged to recycle more. It is fair and encourages everybody to do the right thing,” Morris said in a presentation to city officials and residents last week.

Actually Joe Morris is wrong. Not only is it not “fair” to charge people per bag of garbage (a policy that punishes poor people), but all it will do is encourage non-compliance. I’m not poor (and I’m getting the paunch to prove it) but I’ll be damned if I’m going to start paying $8-10 a week for the privilege of throwing out my garbage.

As the economy tanks even further, and unemployment has again gone up “unexpectedly,” more people are eating at home, gardening, and doing a host of other things that help tighten belts but do sometimes fatten up the garbage cans. We do these things because money is tight, not because we’re saving up our money to hand over to some company with a  lobbyist who can convince politicians to adopt European style corporatism.

Poor people can’t afford to have the city force them to buy cheap $2 garbage bags. Hell, those of us who aren’t quite poor yet can’t afford that. Bags will be overfilled and more importantly people will resort to dumping garbage to avoid the expense. But that’s the plan isn’t it?

Imagine you’re on the council. Maybe a couple of your colleagues are so out of touch with reality as to think this plan makes sense. But you know that with our incredibly high unemployment and poverty numbers there are going to be a lot of people looking to dodge this. And fines for littering in this state can be anywhere from $200-$1000+ with community service tacked on for good measure.

If the people pay the fine your empty coffers start to fill up, if they can’t pay maybe you can tack on more community service and make up for the inevitable layoffs city government will need to make in the next couple of years.

It’s a win-win! And a scam. Mauldin is coming up short and looking to make a quick buck. But rather than taking an honest, hard look at how to get more taxpayers into Mauldin they are promoting a program that they know will lead to criminality. Criminality which is profitable for the city.

I have a better idea than this garbage bag scheme. Let’s cut the city council budget, and make it a volunteer only position. In 2009 the city council spent $3,000 just on mobile phones, $1,000 on business cards and laid $27,000 on one law firm.

In total the city council spent $124,319.58 in 2009. Granted, this is a bit less than the $160,000 Joe Morris of Waste Zero says we’ll save by giving his company a 15% cut of the half million dollars they expect to raise on the garbage bag program. The cash strapped city won’t have to split the revenue from fines levied against the people who run afoul of this new program. So cutting the council budget would only benefit we taxpayers, and who wants that?

Sounds like there are other ways to make up for budget shortfalls in Mauldin besides a regressive tax designed to encourage people to break the law so Mauldin can collect some sweet, sweet fine money. Too bad there aren’t better people on the council who want to find them.

Comments

2 Responses to “Mauldin’s Regressive Garbage Tax Just a Scam to Encourage Illegal Dumping”

  1. Update on Mauldin Pay as You Throw Garbage Scheme : Greenville Dragnet on April 7th, 2010 8:26 pm

    [...] $1000 a year business card budget. Mauldin’s corrupt and incompetent local government is pushing through a plan that will impact the poor and middle class much more than the rich and will add an unneeded burden on businesses and [...]

  2. Concerned resident on October 5th, 2010 5:35 pm

    Thank Don Godbey for this crap, and the people who voted him in… oh that’s right, he got in because the voting/counting machines in RC Jones main areas were ‘broken’. RC Jones left the city with a surplus, now Godbey has us in the RED.

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