In recent months, Parkersburg residents have been opposed to a $2.50 user fee, and in Ohio, two school levies have failed.
Can people afford the additional costs of these two, basically government-imposed, fee/tax increases? In spite of the continuing economic turmoil, I believe most people can. But that isn't the point of this commentary.
People oppose them...in some cases, overwhelmingly...because it's just about the only time they have a say in the matter.
Look at it this way: if we could vote on the rising cost of gas, would prices right now be skyrocketing toward $4, and possibly $5 a gallon? Probably not. (There also wouldn't be as many oil companies and producers, but that's another story.)
The point is, we don't usually get a say in it when businesses and governments, usually federal and state, want to take more money out of our pockets. And while I'm on the subject, I don't see many life-long smokers cut back or quit altogether because a pack of cigarettes which once cost under a dollar, now run more than $5 a pack. The same applies to the cost of eating out at a restaurant, although I admit to feeling a bit hypocritical about that.
The only chance, it appears, for people to say "no" to higher costs is to vote "no" when the fee or tax comes to a public vote. And people who often support "putting the issue on the ballot" do so assuming (usually correctly) that the public will do just that.
That makes it difficult for public officials to justify the need for the fee/tax increases. Voters reaction to that simply is, "we have to tighten our belts, why can't you?". (See, however, the example two paragraphs back.) And often, they bring up past issues (as they have in at least one school district I'm familiar with) which have nothing to do with the current financial situation.
But as long as people have a choice...and arguably, they should, in a democracy...a large number of them are going to make the choice marked "no" or "against". And all public officials can do about it is to make as airtight a case as they can as to why the choice should be "yes" or "for".