Wants and needs do tell a story

Published 8:29 am Friday, March 28, 2003

By Staff
When that wise old man years ago said "there are two things in life that we know will always happen -- death and taxes," he sure uttered a mouthful.
We take a glimpse at this job of preparing a budget. It could be a town or city, a county, a state, or our federal government. So often the conversation which takes place could well apply to any level of government.
In life we have, of course, taxes and death. In budget making, we have needs and wants. So often it is well nigh impossible to separate one from the other. One official might claim his plea for money comes from a basis of need, while his fellow officials might place it in the wants category. But there are several basic needs which taxes must cover. A basic education constitutes a need. That today is just about a unanimous opinion. But then when frills are added, some of them most worthy, we hear the cry of wants from some taxpayers. There are several needs which so often bulge out to the place that part of the tax expenditure represents want rather than need. Yes, we need protection. Yes, we need roads. Yes, we need transportation. Yes, government needs space in which to operate. We might name a dozen areas that we classify as needs. But if we did away with each of the above needs for one year, we'd survive maybe, but the pursuit of happiness would be lost in the shuffle.
Reason and common sense must prevail, and generally they do. Now we hear the politicians stressing their campaign promise of "no new taxes under any and all circumstances." Then we hear some politicians promise that "elect me and I guarantee that I will vote every time for the tax cuts." Generally speaking, we cannot reduce taxes without also reducing services. We repeat what we have said several times before. The weakest representative of all is the fellow who says "under no circumstances will I vote for a tax increase or a new tax." The fellow who makes no such promise but who keeps an open mind and a shut billfold might be charged with being a political liberal, while the other fellow might be labeled as a true conservative. The liberals and conservatives are classified as such by those outside who follow trends of the day and actions of those in charge.
We return to the basic definitions of wants and needs. Officials worry about those definitions. So often it is agreed that this cause represents a need, but in the matter of money for that need, where does need stop and want take over?
In Beaufort County, all departments and agencies are asking for financial outlays. One big challenge every commissioner has is that of knowing where the stopping point lies. Sufficient taxes must be levied to supply money for the budgetary outlays. It is not always a case of doing right. Rather, it is a case of knowing right.