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Keep the incentives, forget the penny tax

So a proposed "penny" sales tax increase would be spread fairly? Everyone would share the burden? No special treatment?

Unless _ Pasco County Commissioner Peter Altman mused this week _ unless you're a low-income senior citizen. Yeah, that's it. Offer seniors an extra bribe err property tax break, in the form of an additional $25,000 homestead exemption. Maybe that would rally support for the proposed 16-percent sales tax increase being hawked as a "Penny for Pasco."

It will be up to you, the voters, on March 9 to decide the fate of the sales tax proposal. If voters agree, Pasco County would raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 cents on the dollar. The extra money would be split among the Pasco County government, the school system and the county's six municipalities. The cities only get a taste, about 10 percent of the haul, while the county and schools could use most of the loot for a variety of projects.

On the county's part, most of the money would go to shaping up U.S. 19 on the west side. One intersection in Land O'Lakes is in the plan, a couple of intersections in Wesley Chapel, and one intersection and some repaving in east Pasco would make the cut. Oh, heck, east Pasco, we'll even throw in shelters for the great hordes who line up to ride the county bus system over there.

Despite this promised bounty, there has been debate, dissent, discussion, maybe even doubt among the voters. Can it be? Could voters balk at the prospect of giving more of their money to government?

Altman apparently seized an opportunity to prop up the proposal with a pretty sweet deal for seniors. It was up to county commissioners to consider his scheme.

It would have landed with a thud, but it didn't even get off the ground. No real discussion. No interest. No, thank you.

But wait, dear voters. Please don't reject a hefty tax increase just like that. There's more. Uh we'll throw in a break on school district taxes.

It's true, pass the sales tax increase, and the school district has promised to take a little off the top of the school property tax. If you have a house valued at $125,000, with the homestead exemption, you could save $50 a year on the property tax you pay for schools.

What next?

We'll throw in a free ride to school for all children who live more than 2 miles from the nearest school? Wait, we already do that.

How about a break for parents supporting lots of children? Or for people with no children in the school system? A break for people who don't tear up our roads by driving on them? A sales tax rebate for people who buy a lot of things? An economy-building stimulus check for people who don't buy a lot of things? A random cash giveaway?

You may have already won! Return your lucky numbers in this postpaid envelope today!

How much more can they offer to entice voters into forking over an extra $437-million over the next 10 years? Geez, that's a lot more than a penny.

And at what point do I wonder, "Gee, if they're giving money back in the form of property tax breaks, do they really need an extra tax?" Just keep the money you were going to give back to me, and we'll call it even.

If you're curious, Pasco County commissioners make $70,821 a year. They meet once every two weeks.

Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher makes $160,407 a year. County Attorney Bob Sumner collects $148,847.

Jed Pittman, Pasco's clerk of the circuit court, makes $122,457. So do Property Appraiser Mike Wells, Tax Collector Mike Olson, and Superintendent of Schools John Long.

Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning makes $105,360 a year. Sheriff Bob White makes $130,317. Pasco County judges make $121,325 a year.

Wow. That's a lot of people making more than $100,000 a year. I don't make $100,000 a year. I wonder how many Pasco County voters make $100,000 a year.

Maybe Altman could arrange a "Penny for Pasco" tax break for those of us who make less than $100,000 a year.

Or maybe, come March 9, we could just do that ourselves.