Truth is undeniably the first casualty of any political engagement. It’s not that objective truth doesn’t exist – it’s just that the truth becomes inconvenient for those who are promoting poor policy.

Proponents of the misleadingly named “Taxpayer Protection Act” argue that it’s “unfair” that city residents have to pay a 3% franchise fee and that somehow unincorporated county residents are “subsidized” by city residents because city residents have to pay a 3% tax to the city that county residents are not forced to pay to the county.

Of course both arguments are utter nonsense.

While it may be politically expedient or even popular for a county commissioner who represents almost exclusively city residents to impose a new tax on county residents, it doesn’t mean that the city does anything other than collect its franchise fee and spend it on city operations. There is no transfer of money or benefit to the county paid for by the city’s franchise fee, so there is no subsidy.

As for fairness… not having the burden of higher property, gross receipts, and franchise taxes in the county may be attractive but it’s no more unfair than paying lower taxes in New Mexico than they do in California or New York.

Remember, in many cases the county right-of-way isn’t owned by the county at all. The property is owned by individual property owners who already pay taxes on it. The owners must grant a utility easement which allows the use of their property for the purpose of providing needed gas, water, sewer, and electric for themselves and the community around them.

How “fair” is it to charge a property owner for use of land that they already own and pay taxes on? The Taxpayer “Protection” Act would do just that.

Wouldn’t “fairness” dictate that if individuals are forced to provide land for the public good, the county – who purchased the rights-of-way it does own with public money – should provide land without charging the public for the use of lands they paid for in the first place?

The other fallacy being floated is that the county will be charging eeevil “for profit” corporations and that county residents won’t have to pay.

The demonstrable truth is that taxes and franchise fees are ALWAYS passed on to the consumer… you. Just take a gander at any city resident’s electric, water, or gas bill where you’ll find a whole host of taxes and fees that are collected by utility providers and passed on directly to the governments that imposed them.

Words can be used to enlighten and empower or they can be used to confuse and conceal. Focus group tested phrases like “subsidy” and “fair share” may sound good and certainly evoke specific emotional responses, but more often than not they’re used to hide what’s really going on.

We’re used to this kind of misdirection and obfuscation from our political leaders in Washington D.C., where the only truth is getting re-elected and you need to pass a bill before you find out what’s in it.

Commissioner Stebbins in her January 6th letter to the Albuquerque Journal (read it here) picked up the mantle of D.C. rhetoric claiming the absence of a tax is a “subsidy” which is “unfair.” To believe her argument you have to believe that absence is subsidy, two wrongs make a right, and “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

The simple undeniable truth is that if the “Taxpayer Protection Act” passes on Tuesday January 28th, the county will receive millions of dollars of new “revenue” and county residents will pay more for their basic needs utilities. Period.

We can and should have an honest argument about whether or not the county needs to impose additional taxes. But to justify a poor policy through the use of catch phrases and buzz words and more importantly, deny the truth of increased cost to county residents is a disservice to the citizens of Bernalillo County and a prime example of what’s wrong with political discourse in this country.