Vote reflects broken trust

March 19, 2014 

St. Clair and Madison County leaders didn't get the money they sought from the voters for jail renovations, but that's the least of their problems right now.

These tax questions on the ballot Tuesday didn't just get rejected, they got trounced. In each county, twice as many people said no as said yes. The message is clear: The people don't trust county leaders with anymore of their tax dollars. Given the leaders' displays of arrogance and greed, that's not surprising.

Madison County already has millions of dollars in excess taxes sitting in county accounts but rather than spend that, elected leaders wanted to collect even more property taxes from the people to pay for the renovations. They also tried to push this through without giving voters a say; it's only because volunteers worked feverishly to collect thousands of signatures on petitions that the people got to vote.

St. Clair County put a proposed sales tax increase on the ballot, which was preferable to a property tax increase. But rather than just tax people enough for the renovation work, the elected leaders sought to collect three times what was needed. They never explained in detail how the extra money would be spent other than for "public safety." Their message was: Trust us to spend your money wisely. The people shouted: No way.

Figuring out how to regain the public's trust is going to be a much greater challenge than finding other ways to pay for the jail renovations.

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