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Proposed City Road Levy: Mayor Mulligan Op-Ed

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    Posted: Jul 29 2018 at 9:32am
Middletown mayor:  City needs roads levy now



A proposed 10-year, 0.25-percent increase in Middletown’s city income tax that would
generate $3.2 million annually for street repairs.  Photo: FILE PHOTO

1 hour agoJournal-News
By 
  • Larry Mulligan Jr., Guest Columnist

MIDDLETOWN — 

Editor’s Note: The following is a guest column by Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan. To read complete coverage of this issue, click here.

Middletown City Council is considering a proposed income tax levy to address street improvements, to be voted on at its August 7 meeting. The proposal includes a 0.25% increase for 10 years, which would generate about $3.2 million annually, dedicated to street repaving. I believe Council should allow the citizens to vote on this referendum in November for a number of reasons. First, our city streets are a primary concern to many residents. Second, the city has very limited financial resources to address ever decaying streets. And, third, if we fail to address the issue now, the cost will only increase in future years.

During my time on council and as Mayor, the condition of our streets and roadways has been a significant concern to many. Many fellow citizens raised the issue of potholes, limited maintenance and the condition of the city’s streets as disappointments and an item that needed to be addressed. There is significant pride in Middletown; with our streets deteriorating and pothole ridden is not the image of Middletown we want to project to the region and visitors. The current administration, as well as previous administrations, has diligently worked to allocate scarce resources from the general fund to the streets. The challenge over the past decade, and before, has been to focus on critical services of public safety as a priority, which resulted in limiting funding for other areas of the city.

Since the mid-1980’s, when a referendum was held to eliminate a dedicated capital budget allocation, and it was passed by the citizens, funding for maintaining our infrastructure has steadily declined. More recently, the recession, beginning in 2008, created further stress on the city’s budget and further limited funding available for maintenance and repairs. The State of Ohio has reduced local government funds, eliminated personal property taxes and the estate tax, for the overall improvement of the state, but borne by local governments facing reduced budgets and increasing expenditures.

The city currently has in excess of 600 lane miles of roads, the majority of which are rated “fair to failed” by the most recent pavement conditions survey. Today, only 35% of the roads are rated good to excellent. If we do not act to address the situation in the near future, many of the roads that are in marginal condition, will begin to fail, which will further increase the cost to repair them.

Earlier estimates of the cost to repair and maintain our streets increased from around $120 million to a current estimate of $160 million. Even when it is spread over the 20 year life of a repaved street, the annual cost is significant. City Council and the City Manager made good progress towards reaching an improved level of sustainability. However to succeed in reaching that level, it will require additional job growth and new residents in Middletown. I am optimistic that we will ultimately achieve that level, but as a city, we must act now to address this issue. I would encourage Middletown residents to carefully consider this tax increase as an investment in our future. Please reach out to council members to share your thoughts.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 29 2018 at 11:59am
"Middletown mayor: City needs roads levy now"


No, rephrase that to read "City needs to reinstate the road repair fund that was in effect in the 80's". If we approve this new proposed levy, history tells us you will find another way to use that money for something other than the streets. You and those before you have, Mr. City Mayor, a serious issue with a lack of trust between the citizens and your leadership. You have changed the game after the money was approved on occasion.

Mr. City Mayor, you know what happened during the Becker Administration in the 80's. The city asked the voters for permission to take money from the street repair budget and use the money for some "emergency", never replacing the money borrowed and actually eliminating the road repair portion of the city budget. Why, after you used the money for other purposes, didn't you ask the voters to re-instate the money for the road repair budget?

The following has been asked many times before by long time MUSA people. Where is the gas tax money going that is specifically destined for road repair? Why hasn't road repair been a high priority when new city budgets are discussed? What ever became of the road repair committee set up under the Gilleland Admoonistration decades ago? Looks like it was just a waste of time to me. You had all these so-called important people sitting at the table like Becker, Gilleland, Marconi and other city staff members and nothing of any substance ever happened. Typical. Have you applied to the state and feds for any street repair grant money that may be available lately? What are other cities doing to stay current on their road repairs? Have you asked them what they're doing if the city leaders of this town aren't smart enough to figure it out on their own?

It is NOT your fault Mr. Mulligan as to where the money went BEFORE you became involved. It IS your fault for your council not ramping up the street repair budget SINCE you took over especially if you knew it was high on the people's agenda. You have failed the people in this respect. The Becker and Gilleland Administrations have totally neglected the streets since the 80's to current and not one city manager has thought it necessary to place street repair as a high priority even though it has been requested many times by a large portion of this community.

Now, typical of your thinking as a solution for everything, we read about yet another dam levy and yet another attempt at draining the people's wallet. You can't seem to run the ship nor generate revenue in an efficient manner so you create many monetary problems and end up coming back to the people for any and all money solutions. Is that the best you can do Mr. Mulligan? Your idea of narrow minded tunnel vision thinking.....bust the citizens budget by over taxing? You should know we have a low income, poor community as you helped create it. You certainly condoned it as you agreed to the low income/HUD/poor community plan when it was implemented. Because of this, the people have no money for this Mr. Mulligan.

Here's an idea. Stop the incessant plowing of city money into your dam, going nowhere downtown and start using the same focus theme on the basics.... aka, as the streets. You never seem to have a problem finding money for your dam downtown but you just can't seem to find money for anything that isn't on your radar as to importance. Can you explain why that seems to be the case?

Mercy Mr. Mayor, stay out of our wallets.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote middielover Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 29 2018 at 6:25pm
The way I read it the Mayor wants to give us a vote on the issue of funds for Streets.
The funds would have to go to Streets and is for 10 years.
Why not let us vote on it and see what the voters have to say?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 29 2018 at 8:34pm
Why bring up the streets for a vote now? Everyone living here has known for decades the streets have been deteriorating for many years. Mulligan is just now getting around to the suggestion of taxing the people to address the issue? Little late Larry. You and those who proceeded you have brought us to this dilemma. Mulligan mentioned in 2008 that that time hurt the city budget. Mulligan also mentioned the 80's when they raided the street repair fund. He acknowledges the poor handling of the street repair over the years. Now, Mulligan wants to address the problem through proposing another tax to help solve this issue? Why does it always come down to a new tax for people like Mulligan? He is one of many city leaders who has admitted the loss of revenue to fund the city adequately. And just what is the evidence that they have and are working to remedy the revenue problem? Typical response from the city.......admit there is a problem......do nothing with any effect (except to tax the crap out of the people living here) to solve the problem.

Doesn't matter that Mulligan is suggesting that this should go to the voters. Does matter that there seems to be no answer for revenue generation from the current crop of leadership except more taxes. Shouldn't city leaders be making a better effort toward bringing in business money from new employers? Can we really say they have expended great effort in their attempt to bring in new jobs and employers before going to the people with a new tax? The street repair problem should never have gotten to this point in the first place if planning was competently implemented, money was put aside to implement the planning and they budgeted correctly to have never raided the street fund in the first place. Mulligan's message here is the same one that has been used many times over the years......we have tried addressing the issue and now we have to go to the people again......and it's getting old. And that comment that the funds would have to go to the streets for 10 years......bet that won't hold true at all. Just look at what happened in the 80's as a reference. That money was earmarked for roads and went for different purposes. The trust just isn't there Mulligan. City leaders have lied before to the voters. JMO
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote spiderjohn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 30 2018 at 10:23am
Nothing wrong with a vote, however if the issue fails, will admin say “I guess the citizens don’t want their roads fixed” and ignore the issue as a sort of punishment?
City has obligation to repair infrastructure either way—just laying out how to pay for it and how much can be done.

The $$ possibly generated won’t be nearly enough, though it could help.

As vet mentioned, trust issues exist over past raiding of funds for ?ably related projects.
Think about our “sewer funding” also.......
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 30 2018 at 1:22pm
This shows just once and for all how far out of touch most of our city leadership is with their constituents.

There's no way this will pass with the voters. I think Mayor Mulligan knows this - and it is simply a thinly veiled threat against the people.

If it is voted down - you can bet there will be no money spent on roads for the next 10 years as payback for your disagreement.

Sad day when our elected servants ignore the will of their electorate. 

It's time - vote 'em out.  ALL of them!
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."—Henry David Thoreau
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote itsamee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 31 2018 at 12:29pm
Originally posted by buddhalite buddhalite wrote:


There's no way this will pass with the voters



HAHAHAHAHAHA. The same voters who subsidised the senior center? 
Bro, the ones that might "vote 'em out" don't go to the polls. 

Itsa me, mario!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul 31 2018 at 1:55pm
Perhaps you are correct.  I can't imagine anyone seriously approving any tax increase right now though.
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."—Henry David Thoreau
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Bill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 01 2018 at 2:11pm
Why? I thought the national economy was so good? If you're waiting for MIDDLETOWN's economy to be like Mason or West Chester then we might as well use a horse and buggy and traverse the city on dirt roads.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Mike_Presta Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 02 2018 at 2:20pm
Here's why this won't work!

First, let's stipulate that everything in the story is true.

If the tax brings in 3.2 million/year for 10 years is about 30 million bucks.  (I'm gonna round off some of these numbers to make it easy enough for even a bureaucrat to follow along.)  Let's say that the tax even gets renewed for another ten years gives you another $30 Million for a total of $60 million.

The mayor says we need $160 million worth of repairs TODAY.  He also says the average life is only 20 years.  (I believe with proper maintenance it can be much more.)   That means that the 35% of the pavement this is now in fair to good shape will have failed after 20 years so in 20 years the total will be much higher. For ease of math let's say it will only be $180 million.

That means that our $60 will only have fixed one third of the streets.

But wait!!!  The first of the newly-paved streets will now be 20 years old and will not only NOT be even in FAIR condition but will again be on the verge of failure and the one third streets that today are in "good to excellent" shape will have completely failed.  That leaves one third of the streets that are in "fair to failed" condition today and have had another 20 years of service, will be in complete ruin, and so the price goes up!

Obviously, this plan even with a ten year renewal will leave us in worse shape than we are now!!!

Nice plan!!   (NOT!!!)
“Mulligan said he ... doesn’t believe they necessarily make the return on investment necessary to keep funding them.” …The Middletown Journal, January 30, 2012
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Bill Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 02 2018 at 4:46pm
I'm waiting for a sensible solution from a fiscal conservative on how to actually pave these roads. Believe it or not some issues take money to resolve. But why admit that when we can make the usual complaints about what city leadership did 30 years ago, or claim that a few hundred thousand dollars were supposedly wasted in downtown, or claim that Section 8 has brought in people who can't afford an extra few bucks a month?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote buddhalite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 02 2018 at 5:01pm
Bill,

As a fiscal conservative - I think I can help here.

I realize that there's only one way to fix this - and that's to raise funds.

The question is how do you go about it.  Presta gave us a perfect reckoning as to why this levy won't work.

The best way to spur the money is through economic GROWTH (jobs, business, etc.) not excess taxation.

Let's grow our city back to prosperity - well, because no one has EVER in history taxed themselves into prosperity.

Bob
"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."—Henry David Thoreau
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 03 2018 at 8:19am
Bill....
"I'm waiting for a sensible solution from a fiscal conservative on how to actually pave these roads"

I consider myself to be a fiscal conservative nowadays. Here are my suggestions for what it is worth to you.....

Stop spending every dime on the downtown area. Millions in taxpayer money has been spent down there and any positive results have not even been close to that money spent. IMO, there has been an extremely poor ROI on this venture. The downtown seems to be, and has been, the top priority for the city leaders the past two decades. Nothing else seems to matter to them. If they would have made the effort to allocate funds and focused on the streets and infrastructure in the same manner they allocated funds and focused on the downtown, the street repair program would have been off and running for years now. Likewise, if city leaders would have returned the money to the street repair fund in the Bill Becker administration 80's when they raided it for other purposes, we may have seen better roads by now.

Stop loaning money to the so-called downtown developers like Robinette and Grau. They have produced nothing with the money given to them...our tax money. Stop using city money to purchase property especially in the downtown area. The city has taken a bath on property purchased and then given away for a few dollars. No one runs their budget like this.

Get some decent jobs in here. What's the problem Econ. Development Dept.? Asleep at the wheel the last three decades and not worth the salary you all are drawing. If they are not effective, get people in here that are. Let the corporations pay their share and collect the money from the people who have the money. Use the payroll taxes as well. Use the money for the roads.(and not the dam downtown)

Redo the budget. Allocate more to the basics...ie... the streets and infrastructure. Misfocused budget ignoring the basics for decades by city leaders.

Examine what happened to the money collected to redo the EPA findings on the sewer separation. Where did the money go? Likewise, where is the gas tax money going that is designated for the streets? Too many money allocations to too many other sources other than the streets seems to be the case here.

Bill....

"But why admit that when we can make the usual complaints about what city leadership did 30 years ago, or claim that a few hundred thousand dollars were supposedly wasted in downtown, or claim that Section 8 has brought in people who can't afford an extra few bucks a month?"

Because that is reality. The issues you mention here actually happened. Are you suggesting we deny they happened? The money plowed into downtown isn't just a "few thousand dollars" Bill. It is MILLIONS of taxpayer money, grants, loans and other monetary sources used by the city to offer us....what.... a few trinklet shops and some artzy store selections that most living here aren't interested in? Hell, the traffic count will tell you there is a significant lack of interest in what is offered in their downtown area. It is now one step up from a "ghost" downtown and it took them many years and millions of dollars to create that "one step up from a ghost town" scenario.

What city leadership did 30 years ago?.....

Bill, it is important to know and document what they did 30 years ago. It gives us insight as to how we got to where we are now. It is a basis for comparison. We can measure the success of the 50's and 60's to the failures of the 70's to present.The city use to be run much more competently. We haven't had smart people running this city for decades. Too many special agendas for friends of the city to run it in a competent manner. It has been said many times. If you fail to recognize the failures of the past, you are doomed to repeat those failures in current and future endeavors. Learning by mistakes SHOULD result in doing things much better the second time around. BUT, this is Middletown city leadership we are talking about here and we all know they tend to keep beating a losing horse to death (downtown) hoping it will win someday. They don't learn by their mistakes. It is rather evident given past data presented on this forum.

The streets and sewers SHOULD be the top priority as well as protecting the people.(fire/police/medics) Those are the basics that any city should maintain. Not here in Middletown though. Our leadership has other priorities and they never included the basics. JMO

Section 8??? We all know that during the Gilleland Administration, the city rolled out the red carpet for HUD and low income people to come to the city. We have more than double the participation based on the population of this city at the time. City leaders invited those people to town I presume for revenue purposes and to help their Section 8 landlord buddies out renting out their Section 8 property with guaranteed rent from the government program paid to them. And yes, because they are low income, they can't afford a few extra bucks a month for any new taxes.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Analytical Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 03 2018 at 11:53am
Viet Vet, your spot-on commentary regarding the sordid history of prior diversions of sizable city infrastructure funding remains pertinent.

Moving forward, what thought has been given to specific sources of readily available capital, besides increased employment taxes, to upgrade Middletown's street deficiencies?

Specifics, not one other person's frequently stated generalities, are the order of the day.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote spiderjohn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 03 2018 at 1:51pm
Vet might be off on a few names and timing—-don’t think Grau received any $$$ only a sweet deal on two buildings that have probably deteriorated since being given away. Robinette got a few sweet deals, though nothing really worked out for him either. Coon is the guy who has stiffed ya so far imo. He seems to be working everywhere else—not sure that is is paying off either. Still big plans for goetz—we shall see.....hard to figure why Rose is still standing(barely!).

Koehler and section 8 long predate Judy G or anyone around today. Have to go way back to their origins.

Easy to talk “jobs”—sounds good but not so easy anywhere(especially here). New library guy is the latest “throw it at the wall hope it sticks “ guy. Another brewery?? Come on, man....

City needs cash—pretty simple
Citizens don’t have it—also pretty simple
The former downtown area is all that we have since everything else has been left to rot. Not nearly enough, though thanx to the young blood trying and making a few places enjoyable—it ain’t easy

So—how do we do it, bill??
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 05 2018 at 8:47pm
No doubt spider that I may be incorrect in names and times on some events but I come close at times. You are correct in your assessment of my posts as to accuracy of events at times. So much happening that has been just wrong for the city it is hard to remember exact details for me.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Analytical Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 06 2018 at 4:08am
Three comments..........................

1)  As per a Sunday 8/5 review of the city's website, the Tuesday 8/7 city council meeting apparently doesn't
include an agenda item for the suggested 0.25% employment tax increase.  However, city staff is sometimes
previously known to add agenda items at the last moment;

2)  The ill-advised and perhaps clandestine actions(?) of past One Donham Abbey senior staff plus city
council members have harmed the taxpayers of today via their diversion of significant capital that should have
been utilized for streets and other infrastructure improvements; and,

3)  In regards to several noteworthy stalled re-developer "downtown" deals, didn't One Donham Abbey
senior staff and city council members somewhat function as "joint-partners" in the near give-away of
former city-owned property, lavish property tax abatements, direct cash contributions, and other taxpayer
goodies?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote middletownscouter Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Aug 06 2018 at 9:02am
https://www.journal-news.com/news/mayor-drops-income-tax-proposal-from-middletown-council-agenda/pDKcxdYPp9uiNNoDDQWaqK/

Mayor drops income tax proposal from Middletown’s council agenda
59 minutes ago
By Ed Richter, Staff Writer

MIDDLETOWN — Middletown voters will no longer be asked to consider an income tax increase to fund road improvements, as a lack of support on the council caused the issue to be pulled.

The ordinance that would have been planed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot was pulled by Mayor Larry Mulligan before the city council’s agenda was published last week. Mulligan proposed raising the city income tax from 1.75 percent to 2 percent to raise about $3.2 million per year for 10 years that would go solely for street and road repairs and maintenance. The additional revenues would have augmented the funds the city budgeted for streets and roads in addition to state and federal grants received.

The ordinance was given a first reading at the July 17 meeting and was scheduled to have a second reading Tuesday and adopted as an emergency ordinance so that the city could meet the Wednesday deadline to submit ballot issues to the Butler County Board of Elections for the November general election.

Passage would require a super majority of four votes from the five-member council, and two council members had already said they would not vote for the proposed levy. Last month, members Steve Bohannon and Ami Vitori both said they were not in favor of Mulligan’s proposal.

Bohannon and Vitori said it was not the right time for an income tax increase. Vitori added she made a campaign promise last fall not to raise taxes. Both council members maintained their positions when contacted earlier this week.

Mulligan said he pulled the item off the agenda, saying that there weren’t enough votes.

“I understand people’s perspectives,” he said. “It’s didn’t seem to be worth it to place it on the agenda.”

Mulligan wrote a guest column July 29 for the Journal-News making his case for the road levy, urging residents to contact their council members.

“I believe Council should allow the citizens to vote on this referendum in November for a number of reasons,” Mulligan said. “First, our city streets are a primary concern to many residents. Second, the city has very limited financial resources to address ever decaying streets. And, third, if we fail to address the issue now, the cost will only increase in future years.

“During my time on council and as Mayor, the condition of our streets and roadways has been a significant concern to many. Many fellow citizens raised the issue of potholes, limited maintenance and the condition of the city’s streets as disappointments and an item that needed to be addressed.”

While Mulligan made his case for the proposed levy, the Journal-News took a Facebook poll last week asking readers if they were for or against the road levy.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 900 people voted in the poll and 555 people, about 61 percent, were against the levy, and 384, or about 39 percent, were for the levy. Facebook readers were also invited to share their comments.

“The last time the City proposed a tax to pay for road improvements, and it passed, the money was put in the general fund and the road improvements never happened,” wrote Amy Hembree.

“I understand that no one wants to pay more taxes. Myself included but the roads do need a lot of work. It is not the City of Middletown’s fault that large manufacturers moved to different locations. Most made the plans to move without ever telling city officials what their intentions were,” wrote Dianne Hendricks McKinney.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote TonyB Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Yesterday at 3:47pm
I'd like to point out a problem with the "economic growth" theory of raising revenues for local government. When those deals are made with companies entering the area, they are given so much tax abatement and relief that the only increase in revenues comes from individual income taxes. You're not going to get any significant economic growth here without giving away the tax revenues.
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