The Tea Party has a special, strange desire to attack and dismantle things that are usually inherently good. They have warped views on civil rights, the economy, and education and knowledge. The latter has recently come under heavy attack. However, it isn’t the schools that the Tea Party has targeted this time, it’s public libraries.
Most libraries are funded by county taxes, much like other government services: police, the fire department, trash services, sewer, etc. A Tea Party group has managed to pinch funds from some public libraries across the state of Kentucky.
In 2012, property taxes were raised a mere $1 to help fund maintenance on the five libraries in Pulaski County, KY. However, the Tea Partiers in that county got in an uproar over a single dollar rise, citing that the “$1 increase had not been voted on by the people.” After the raise, Pulaski County Tea Partiers sent out a petition to totally dismantle the library tax district. Luckily, the Tea Party didn’t obtain enough signatures.
In 1979, a law was established that allowed board authorities, like the Pulaski County Library Board, to have a “special purpose taxing district,” that they could raise annually by four percent in times of high inflation to protect county services. When the library authority in Campbell County, KY wanted to enact a $20 increase to build a brand new library, the Tea Party was able to undercut that.
By citing a 1964 law that “prohibit[s] library taxing district formed by a petition of voters,” they were able to have their argument approved by two Kentucky circuit court judges. Because these judges ruled in favor of the Tea Party, Campbell County was ordered to drop its tax rates to what they were in 1978.
But taxes aren’t the only way that Kentucky Republicans have gone after libraries, which the true motivation is still a little unclear. Other instances of the right-wing’s attack on libraries point to political gain.
Last year, the Kentucky State Senate passed a law that “would give county judge-executives and fiscal courts more control over who staffs library boards.” Kentucky state Senator John Schickel, a Republican, filed the bill.
Libraries across the state are in staunch opposition to the bill, thinking that it could open up the door for politicians to use a community service as a platform.
“I don’t think it is a stretch of the imagination at all that it would inject politics into providing library services,” said executive director of Campbell County Public Libraries and chairman of the Kentucky Library Association Advocacy Committee, J.C. Morgan.
Morgan continues by saying “There’s no criteria given in this bill that Senator Schickel put together on how a county judge would turn down a candidate. Then you’ll see judges that appoint people to library boards, because they’re grooming them for some other office, or they want to have an impact on the library’s revenue streams, specifically the tax rate, or they didn’t like a book the library picked out.”