|We’ve all heard the expression, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” but it seems almost forgotten when it comes to the fragile relationship between government spending and public opinion. A recent poll, mentioned by the National Center for Policy Analysis’ President and CEO John Goodman, surveyed taxpayers on using tax monies to supplement the cost of operating bus services—50% were in support of this. However, once the words, “personal income tax monies” were used in place of “tax monies,” support for the initiative dropped to 27%.With constantly competing data points like the ones mentioned above, how can government agencies decide where to allocate taxpayer-generated funds? It’s not an easy question to answer, but more public feedback is one possible solution.Hold public meetings|
That is what Albuquerque, New Mexico, did. They invited taxpayers to share their feedback on how the IRS could better serve them. The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), a federal advisory committee focused on listening to taxpayers, presented the event. It included a one-hour open forum dialogue to solicit direct feedback and concerns from taxpayers as well as the opportunity for taxpayers to meet TAP members, voice their concerns and provide feedback that would be used to drive change.
Pembroke, Maine, did something similar at the request of State Rep. Josh Cutler. A listening tour was designed to solicit public feedback on the community’s transitional assistance programs—EBT cards, food assistance benefits, unemployment compensation and emergency shelter programs—and to educate the public on important upcoming changes within the Department of Transitional Assistance. The government utilized this feedback to improve policies and better allocate resources.
To hold your own town meeting, you will need to get the word out. Include meeting notifications on neighborhood bulletin boards, in community newsletters and in mailings. A Greet n Keep Calendar Card serves a dual purpose—it’s an invitation to the event and a reminder of other important dates. Be sure to thank those who attend by providing a simple token of appreciation that also doubles as a public service announcement like the emergency and fire safety cards.
No matter what method you employ to solicit taxpayer feedback, make sure you use the data you gathered for sound decision making. No matter what, there will always be someone that’s dissatisfied. But a decision backed with public feedback might be an easier one to swallow for those you may have disappointed.
“What Does the Public Think About Government Spending?” John Goodmans Health Policy Blog RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013.
“Town Hall Encourages Taxpayer Comments About the IRS – 2010 – News & Events | UNM School of Law.” Town Hall Encourages Taxpayer Comments About the IRS – 2010 – News & Events | UNM School of Law. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013.
“Polling 101.” 4imprint.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013.
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