Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, but that doesn't give government carte blanche.
The Urbana City Council, citing the need for more revenue to address street maintenance issues, last year approved both a municipal gas tax of 2.4 cents a gallon and regular increases in the tax to ensure it steadily grows.
That decision prompted members of the Champaign City Council recently to pass a gas tax of their own — 4 cents a gallon.
Seeing Champaign pass a tax 1.6 cents higher than Urbana, Mayor Laurel Prussing shamelessly decided to play catch-up. She recently proposed that her city council raise the municipal gas tax to 4 cents rather than to the 2.8-cent level it was already scheduled to reach July 1.
Mayor Prussing defended the increase as a minor upward adjustment and justified it on the grounds that "we certainly do need the revenue."
Hey, everyone could use an increase in their revenue stream, particularly those who are suffering from the effects of a brutal recession and a painfully slow recovery. But not everyone can simply dial up a revenue increase by directing that others pay more.
That's the difference between governmental entities that levy taxes and those institutions and individuals who pay them.
Sure, it's only 1.6 cents more for a gallon of gas and just 1.2 cents more than the level it was going to anyway under the city's automatic increase formula.
But then Champaign's proposed bag tax is only 5 cents a bag and the Champaign school board's back-door property tax hike is only $25 more a year for owners of a house assessed at $150,000. And both cities' new storm sewer fees are only roughly $60 a year — except for those whose bills will be much larger than that.
The point is that all those supposedly negligible increases — on top of all the previous negligible increases — can add up to real money.
Sure, some people can afford to pay more. But what about those who can't? There are plenty of them, too.
Equally disturbing, however, has been the obvious comfort our elected officials on local taxing bodies have raising taxes. They want it. Case closed.
These are economic hard times. Money extracted by government from citizens' pockets leaves people with less to spend. That hurts individual families as well as the overall economy.
Our elected officials and appointed officials need to take a step back and consider the larger ramifications of all these increases. They're way overboard.