Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Interesting ...... Utah State Tax Commission Economist Retires......

...because of a memo sent by Palmer Depaulis, Utah tax commissioner. The article in the DesNews quoted the memo as saying, "To avoid any misunderstandings, the staff should only give clear, unbiased and objective data and information while representing the Tax Commission in a public meeting, and that information should be given without subjective nuance or argumentative tone. Therefore, when staff is representing the Tax Commission or acting as an agent of the Tax Commission they are not free to express their own positions, opinions and views. . . . In the future, if this guidance is not followed, disciplinary action may be taken." Palmer Depaulis claims that the letter was not a gag order and had nothing to with the personal income tax reform issue. The economist, Doug MacDonald, had 27 years with the commission and was often called upon my the Legislature to testify regarding tax matters. MacDonald was quoted as his reasoning for retiring as "threats of taking disciplinary action against me for answering" lawmakers' questions combined with HB213, a post-retirement health-care law that took effect Friday, were reasons enough to leave."

My problem with this issue is that in an issue as important as this (one I have written about ad nauseum) should encourage dissenting viewpoints and opinions. My second problem is that the language of the letter almost would forbid this economist fromtestifyingg to the legislature, because the legislature is asking for an opinion to be given. The governor and his "brain trust" are claiming that the reforms into a flatter tax will result in tax cuts almost universally for all Utahn's and those that see increases will see increases of "10 to 20 dollars". That seems incredulous with the information (lacking as it is) while most other evidence leans toward the flat tax resulting in higher taxes. Therefore all expert opinions should be given unimpeded, and valued.

I don't believe that their is any conspiracy to pass the flatter tax, however that memo (especially if it was targeted at this economist as the article leads one to believe) was agrievouss mistake regarding an issue as critical as totally overhauling the state's income tax structure.


Anonymous said...

It is a sad day for our democratic form of government when people are punished for presenting facts, or sharing their opinions with policy makers and legislators. Speaking in an official capacity for an agency one has a duty to present the agencys views. However, no one should be repremanded, punished, or fired for having, or expressing a diffrent opinion. No person, or agency, has a monopoly on truth, or on "good ideas". We all benifit when oposing views are presented along with the reasoining and facts upon which those views are based. All "Good ideas" become better when exposed to critism and scrutiny. It is hardly a marketplace of ideas if we are presented only one option, or only the facts which support one side of an issue. Having one party in a super majority has created an atmosphere in which all critism is treated as irrelevalnt. As a result, a lot of legislation that would not survive a rigorous debate gets passed becases no one qusetions the party line. When it comes to something as fundmental as income tax reform, we should be grateful for someone who expresses views which make us examine our own position, whatever that may be. eliminating that healthy debate makes for an unhealthy system. If we want sound policy we should incourage people to present information and ideas, not punish them for doing so.

pramahaphil said...

Well said. Thank you for your comment