Sarasota News Leader

07/12/2013

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Sarasota News Leader July 12, 2013 OPINION Page 81 she also will need to acquire more centrally covers only a fraction of the funds needed to located quarters where she can offer examina- fully finance the transition. tions and license issuance for county drivers. Ford-Coates did inform the County CommisA new, centrally located facility could cost as sion that the Florida Tax Collectors Association has made convincing the Legislature to much as $3.5 million, she estimated. correct this inequity its No. 1 legislative priOnce the transition is complete, she expects ority. an additional 45,000 customers to visit her offices just for driver's license-related matters. The commissioners, meanwhile, said they But most concerning for her are the estimated hoped the tax collectors were working with 5,000 road tests her employees will need to the Florida Association of Counties as well to achieve that legislative goal. But Ford-Coates administer each year. reminded the commissioners she previously Of course, her office already has been pro- had asked the County Commission to make viding driver's license services for a number the matter one of its top legislative priorities, of years, as have other tax collectors across apparently to no avail. Florida. The accessibility of the tax collectors' offices has been an attractive option for driv- Now, it would appear, the commissioners fiers, who are willing to pay a small additional nally are listening. fee for the privilege. The oily entreaties regularly made by candiThe state legitimately could see how transferring all responsibility for license examination and issuance to the county tax collectors was a reasonable evolution in the delivery of those services. However, the state's legitimate desire for efficiency is betrayed by its craven desire for money it no longer will deserve once it abandons licensing. dates for the Legislature and statewide office, offering to reduce the size of state government and reduce the burden of individual taxpayers, continues to have a seductive appeal. Yet logic dictates that much that is proposed by these political hacks is not feasible, or worse, only shifting the costs from one agency to another … essentially "robbing Peter to pay Paul." Propriety never has stayed the state's hand in the past, though, so one should not be surprised it does not now. By legislative fiat, the state forces the counties to assume a duty it ultimately has been responsible for, yet requires them to continue to send on to Tallahassee the fees each county tax collector receives. All the counties are able to do is continue to collect the small fee they always have been allowed for providing licensing services, which It is a distasteful game of governmental "Three-card Monte" and an undeniable disservice to citizens. Regrettably, it will continue as long as voters succumb to the allure of these hollow promises of fiscal prudence and lower taxes. Good government costs money, and all voters should acknowledge that reality, because bad government — at least in this instance — costs twice as much. %

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