Hospital expansion is extravagance that will hit poor residents hardest

Posted: Friday, October 03, 2003

Ten reasons to vote "No" on the hospital expansion:

1. Property tax increases are hardest on the poor.

The disadvantaged cannot avoid property taxes everyone has to live somewhere. A single mother with three children will require a three-bedroom home, and thus will pay the same tax as the dual income couple that lives down the street. We should therefore raise our property taxes only when absolutely necessary.

2. Property taxes face an uncertain future.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough has reasonable property taxes for now. But across our state and nation one can see how mill rates can double or triple quickly. Furthermore, as the state loses oil revenue over the next decade, there will be intense pressure to raise local revenue through property taxes for essentials like roads and schools. Do we really want to commit to a 20-year bond in the face of such a grim economic forecast?

3. Users should pay their own way.

Why should the public subsidize hospitals? If the hospital wishes to expand but can't afford it, they should cut costs or raise prices like the rest of the private sector does. Yes, it's true that we can't live without medical care, but hey, we can't live without food either, and I don't see Fred Meyer asking for money to expand. (Come to think of it, we don't have to wait three hours to buy groceries, either).

4. Political lobbying should not be rewarded.

As reported by the Clarion, the highly paid hospital administration has been crusading all over the peninsula for months, pushing the hospital expansion. Now this is an easy way to cut costs stop lobbying and do medicine! High-quality propositions don't need salesmen. Bottom line: We should not reward such brazen lobbying on the public dollar with a "Yes" vote.

5. Seniors will be major beneficiaries, but pay little or nothing.

Seniors have a property tax exemption. Thus, they will feel little or no pain due to any property tax increases. This is unfair, considering they are the primary beneficiaries from hospital expansion due to their more frequent usage of medical care. Many community leaders so supportive of this proposal (e.g. hospital board members, assembly members, etc.) will never feel this tax increase yet will benefit greatly from it.

6. It could threaten the senior property tax exemption.

As mill rates increase, the pressure will mount to raise more revenue. The senior property tax exemption is an easy target for big government. If we want to keep the exemption, we need to keep costs low.

7. It is not fiscally conservative.

If you have seen the drawing of the proposed expansion, you may be wondering: Is this a hospital or a resort? It's hard for me to imagine this as "fiscally conservative."

8. Don't subsidize out-of-towners.

If tourists use our hospital, they get a free ride from expansion costs. If we simply added any expansion costs to the price of hospital services rather than tax our citizens, we would benefit twice: first, more outside money comes in, and second, money that would have been spent on property taxes would now drive our economy.

9. Local schools are being cut.

We are in the process of shutting down schools, and class sizes are bigger than ever. If we are going to increase the mill rate for 20 years, it should go for more important issues.

10. It's too expensive.

If our hospital was operated by a private company, they would be building something more cost-effective. Fifty million! Everyone wants to fly first class, but few are willing to pay for it. Of course, if you can get somebody else to buy your ticket ...

Vote "No" on the hospital expansion. It's a one-way ticket to government extravagance to be paid for by those who can least afford it.

M. David Dammeyer, Soldotna

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