As the end of session nears, an issue has cropped up that bears watching. Unlike in the recent past, the state legislature is balking at approving any requests by county governments across the state to increase the local share of the sales tax. In the past, when a local government transmitted what is known as a home rule request to the state legislature, which requires local approvals and a public hearing prior to its submission, the request has, with rare exception, been granted as a matter of courtesy to the local government making the request. In other words, since the local government held public hearings and voted in favor of the proposal, the state should defer to that local government as knowing what is best for its community. Given that the proposal or request can only have application within the boundaries of the local government, that made sense.
Now, it seems, the state legislature is abandoning the concept of allowing local governments to handle local matters and instead is imposing its policy goals onto local governments. Given that all local governments, including county governments, are subjected to the property tax cap, but still must grapple with paying for state mandated programs, a county government must carefully consider all sources of revenue in addition to scrutinize the small portion of its budget attributable to discretionary spending. If, after undergoing that analysis, a county government requests an increase in its share of the sales tax, and has obtained the necessary approvals to make that request to the state legislature, should the state legislature be permitted to quash that effort or hold up the request?