Unless you’re the kind of “flaming liberal” that politicians often chastise, it’s unlikely that news of a proposed sales tax increase in Cochise County will be well received. Digging deeper into the pocketbook to pay more for government services usually means less personal income for life’s essentials.

Those who are on a fixed income feel the pinch more than others, sometimes unable to afford the quality of life they did before the cost of things increased.

Unfortunately, Cochise County has few options when it comes to raising revenue to maintain its jail.

Last week county supervisors took a significant step toward authorizing the creation of a separate jail district and funding that entity by adding an additional half-cent to the sales tax. Before this can become a reality, Cochise County voters must approve the increase. We anticipate that in the near future we will hear about a special election date and very likely a mail-ballot election seeking approval to create the special district.

The good news for county taxpayers is that supervisors have endorsed a sales tax, not a property tax. The down side of a sales tax is its potential impact on the local economy. Increasing the cost of goods and services that collect sales taxes has the potential to negatively affect local merchants. The upside is that a sales tax spreads the pain. Beyond county residents, some of the revenue collected from this additional half-cent tax will be paid by tourists and others who don’t live in the county or don’t own property.

Maintaining the county jail, which was constructed in 1984, is a responsibility for Cochise County, not a luxury. Long gone are the days when the local jail was a simple holding pen for offenders with minor criminal charges or local traffic violations.

Today, we count on the services provided by the jail to address mental health issues for the homeless, physical problems for inmates who can’t, or won’t afford health care, and to house immigrants here illegally, among others who are taken into custody.

Funding and service cutbacks at the state and federal levels have pushed more responsibilities onto counties across Arizona and throughout the country.

Now is the time to stand up and voice your opinion on whether Cochise County should take this step. It’s time for public input on this plan.

Speak now, or hold your peace when the outcome is decided.


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