When it comes to finances, government does not operate like the rest of us (news flash!).
If citizens need more money for whatever reason, we must scrimp and save, work extra hours, borrow it, win the lottery, etc.
But all government needs to do is raise taxes or fees or come up with some new charge — in other words, rather than do as the rest of us and solve our financial burdens by tightening up our own house, it just passes them on to the people.
And what can they do in response? Nothing. Those who don’t pay their taxes to the county, state or federal government face all kinds of threats, penalties and fines, not to mention liens, judgments or garnishment of wages.
Now this is nothing new, but one thing that is a relatively novel concept is using our vehicles as a wedge for said taxation.
This really hits home in the South, where we depend so heavily on our personal modes of transportation, be it the pickup, SUV, passenger car, motorcycle or scooter — with public transportation resources being limited.
Most of us grew up circling the dates on the calendar in looking forward to that glorious day when we received our learner’s permit or driver’s license. And it was even more exciting to get our first set of wheels, despite whatever humble clunker it might have been.
So given our car culture and our dependency on it, I’m especially sensitive about vehicle-ownership rights — and furious about how our cars increasingly are being targeted by bureaucrats.
The fact that vehicles are levied on for property tax purposes really doesn’t bother me that much.
But what does is the trend begun several years ago in which those who didn’t pay taxes on their car or truck had a block placed on their vehicle registration — meaning you couldn’t renew your tag until those taxes were paid.
Of course, everyone should fulfill their taxation obligations, in a perfect world. However, I would imagine that many of those who didn’t pay their vehicle tax bills on time were suffering from the effects of the economy that included having their jobs outsourced.
I guess it was the fault of those financially strapped people for being so irresponsible and choosing to provide food or housing for their families rather than pay vehicle taxes. Shame on them for placing their paltry need for survival ahead of the government’s desire to suck more money out of the populace.
Alas, the state had the solution, with some bureaucrat in Raleigh apparently coming up with the idea of blocking people’s vehicle registration, realizing the importance of their need to drive.
After all, the main thing is that the state gets its money, right, even if it means threatening the ability of someone to earn that money by trying to reach their job sites using a car with an expired tag.
Here again, the fact that we depend so heavily on our cars made them a handy target for whoever came up with this intimidation tactic, which makes it all the more despicable.
In more recent years, the state has gone the extra mile with this, if you will. Rather than paying back taxes at the courthouse to get your tag renewed, owners now are required to pay their vehicle property taxes in advance at DMV offices.
I imagine that same bureaucrat with his demented little mind came up with this one, too.
And as if our vehicles weren’t being used enough as pawns, now comes another bright idea, probably from that same weasel.
As of July 1, all North Carolina municipalities have the authority to levy a tax of up to $30 per registered vehicle in accordance with state law, as a way to create new revenue for infrastructure needs.
In Mount Airy, city officials are poised to implement a $15 vehicle tax in our case, $10 of which would go for improvement of local streets that are not part of the state highway system. The other $5 could be used for any purpose.
My intent today is not to attack that idea, but to point out that the $15 tax is providing yet another vehicle for us to be forcibly charged more, and if we don’t pay, we don’t drive.
And you can guarantee that this charge will be around forever, because once a tax is implemented it almost never is eliminated, even if every local street were to be paved with gold and all infrastructure needs met.
For those who wonder what’s next, I’m sure that sick bureaucrat is hard at work.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.