Letter to the editor: It’s okay to vote ‘no’

By Tommy Brents

Over the course of the past year and a half or so, small business owners across America have faced tremendous challenges. In Texas alone, it is estimated that more than 10,000 small businesses have closed permanently. At the state and federal level, politicians on both sides of the aisle are quick to point to Coronavirus as the cause of the economic disruption, but they rarely, if ever, acknowledge their own culpability.

Businesses in Liberty County have, thankfully, not shuttered en masse, but it is no secret that many are struggling and some have recently made the difficult decision to transition out of business ownership altogether. Besides corporately-owned gas stations, new retail space has certainly been slow to develop, and with the cost of goods and services rising, business owners face the prospects of an even more tumultuous future.

It is unconscionable that local officials are following in the footsteps of their state and federal counterparts to seize this particular occasion to demand citizens relinquish more of their hard-earned cash. They are calling for what amounts to a “Great Reset” here at home, only instead of “Build Back Better” it is Build “Better Care.”

Taxpayers in Liberty, for example, have seen every local taxing authority approve a tax increase over the past month and a half. Two of them, Liberty ISD (which already has the highest tax rate of any entity in Liberty County) and the Hospital District (which already unanimously approved a tax increase just over a month ago), are asking for so much more from taxpayers that they are being forced to seek voter approval. Both have made emotional pleas to local residents, but neither have shown a willingness to make tough sacrifices and suffer well like the rest of us. One might even say they consider themselves “too big to fail.”

Business owners, though fewer in number, are likely to bear a much heavier burden with these tax increases than local residents. Those unfamiliar with running a business may not be aware that the costs of doing so are already significantly higher than simply residing locally. Goods and services provided to businesses (even public utilities) are often obtained at much higher rates than those paid by average consumers. Despite public perception, the ability to “just write that off” does not pay the bills each month.

Unlike for homeowners, there are no common tax exemptions available to business owners which may ease their burdens. Instead, those burdens just get more unbearable each year as insurance rates soar, property valuations and tax rates inch higher, government expands regulations/mandates, and now, of course, inflation surges. Business ownership is a blessing, but it sure is not for the faint of heart.

Lest we believe this is merely a business problem, consumers are becoming increasingly aware that in order for businesses to keep their doors open and to compete with government welfare systems, they must pass their rising costs on to their customers. The cost of groceries, even the cost of a burger and fries at a local budget fast food joint have gotten more expensive. Have you noticed that “Dollar Menus” have become “Value Menus”?

This vicious cycle is not sustainable, and there is a point at which neither the producers of goods and services, nor consumers, will be able to afford to participate in it. Wise entrepreneurs will leave the marketplace first, but too many will make the unwise decision to blow their savings or go into debt just to try and save their business. In the end, ambition alone won’t put food on the table.

Please understand that no amount of taxpayer funds will adequately offset the destructive consequences of adopting big government economic policies here at home. Government officials can build all the empty roads they want, purchase all the struggling country clubs with golf courses, prolong the life of failing hospitals, and even repurpose all the car dealerships and old retail buildings left in town, but more government spending will never solve our problems and improve our local economies.

If local officials were serious about seeing our communities prosper, they would lower tax rates, pursue public policy that makes conducting business locally more profitable, and they would quit competing against private enterprise. Why would financial risk takers and decision makers choose to invest in Liberty County when the local government sees them as only a means to an end (more tax revenue for fancy big government equipment, new facilities, and projects)? That is an antiquated way of thinking that exchanges a growing economy for a growing government.

The reality is, the local propositions on the ballot represent a very real threat to the financial well-being of residents and business owners alike. The Hospital District in particular is asking for voters to approve over 135 million dollars of spending (after interest) over as many as 50 years. They like to brag about their “low tax rate”, but have not bragged about how their propositions passing would result in them having one of the highest I&S tax rates (the amount of taxpayer funds it takes to service their debt) among hospital districts in the entire State of Texas. These irresponsible measures will only hasten the decline of local small business and further drive away young families from our communities.

The good news is, for most of us, it is not too late to step back from the ledge and take a deep breath — to think selflessly and rationally. We are not immune to the challenges the rest of the world is facing. We have an opportunity to exercise our right to vote responsibly against a Great Reset here at home by voting AGAINST Hospital District Props A and B, and any other ballot measure that seeks to raise our taxes.

As we exercise our right to vote, we would do well to remind ourselves and others that “It’s OK to Vote no!”

Tommy Brents is a second generation small business owner. He is a lifelong Liberty County resident, and has had the honor of serving the communities of south Liberty County for nearly 15 years. He and his family are thankful to call Liberty their home.

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  1. Tommy, I understand we are all over taxed. I am conservative politically and against over taxation, have certainly felt the pinch of higher taxes, inflation, cost of goods etc. I am a senior so I live on a fixed income. There is only so much I have to work with each month. But because I am older, I need better healthcare services. That is why I am willing to pay a few more dollars for a new hospital/clinic in our area. I have been to the emergency room, I have taken family members there for services to avoid having to drive into Houston for that care. There are no “privately” funded hospitals left. Every large hospital, names you recognize like Methodist, Herman, etc. accept and depend on government funding through various programs (your tax dollars) to stay alive. I choose to pay a few dollars locally for local healthcare for me and for your family. When I have a health emergency or accident, God forbid, I want nearby emergency care. A few years ago, the Chambers County hospital in Anahuac had to close their doors because folks did not want to support higher tax to take care of its needs. The people didn’t realize until it was too late what a local facility meant until there was no care and lives were lost. They demanded and received a ballot to raise their district tax to 48-cents per $100 to renovate their old hospital. It passed by large margins.. They still have an old hospital with their rate, almost 3 times what ours would be if the props pass but we would have a new hospital and large clinic in Dayton. I, along with others, mostly seniors, are willing to stretch our budgets to get the care we need.

  2. Our tax rate is 9 cents. This rate has not changed since 2005.
    Over the course of eleven years, we have stretched every dollar to make repairs to the building and to upgrade our equipment and technology.
    We have dedicated staff that works hard to provide good care for our patients.
    We serve hundreds of patients that can not afford health care.
    Proposition A approves increasing our tax rate 9 cents. If approved, the maximum tax rate will be 18 cents which will be one of the lowest tax rate in the state.
    Some have implied that the i&s rate will be a separate rate above the 18 cents. This is wrong. The operation tax rate and the i&s rate combined can not exceed 18 cents by law.
    Please vote YES for Proposition A and B

    Paul Henry

  3. How come the local banks don’t invest in the hospital? If you really want to make change see which bank has associates on the different boards around liberty county. Don’t do business with those wanna be JPMorgan bankers. Call that bank and tell them your closing your account because you don’t like how their associate as acting on you local elected boards.

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