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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/671

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A STATE OFFICIAL ON EXCESSIVE TAXATION.

must not be forgotten," he adds, mentioning a truth commonly forgotten even by people that have reached a higher civilization than that of the average State official, "that the money spent for these inmates is not voluntary contribution, but is the product of enforced taxation."[1]

Resistance to aggression is one of the fundamental instincts of the human race. It has been enforced during countless ages by


  1. But I ought to add that this mismanagement of State charitable institutions is duplicated in the management of other State departments that came under Mr. Roberts's observation. Although more than $24,000,000 have been spent on the new Capitol, it proves to be too small for the purposes it was designed to meet. Mr. Roberts recommends the conversion of the old State Hall into a finance building. The State Library has become so large that it will soon require a separate building. The racing tax law was so bunglingly framed that the collections under it in 1896 were attended with "more difficulty and expense than usual." As the forest-preserve law stood in 1896, it permitted people purchasing State lands to strip them of lumber, and then, owing to certain irregularities connected with the sale, making it illegal, to recover the money originally paid with interest at six and seven per cent added. Because of the absence of any law covering the personal expenditures of members of legislative investigating committees, claims for seven and eight dollars a day are rendered, although four or five dollars a day are believed to be ample. Let me add that these investigations, which, during the period from 1879 to 1896 inclusive, cost $823,534.51, reveal another source of waste from State management. Still another source of waste is State printing. Pointing out the "growing expenses of State printing," Mr. Roberts shows that they have increased from $95,029.51 in 1887 to $315,585.81 in 1896. At one time the law was so defective that it was impossible to frame specifications for bids that would allow for printing of different kinds. For example, blanks varying from two to three inches square to two and three feet had to be classed in the same schedule and price. A needless quantity of reports is printed. Some of them are printed in the highest style of the art and richly embellished with expensive plates and engravings. One report for 1 895 cost $42,000, and others cost as high as $20;000 and $30,000. "It does not seem logical," says Mr. Roberts, commenting on this extravagance, "to spend as much on the illustration of a report as it costs for clerk hire in many departments." Another evil is the failure of the Legislature to appropriate money enough to meet the printing bills each year, thus making it necessary either to borrow money to pay them or to compel the printer to wait for his pay at a loss of interest on the amount due him. In this connection attention must be called to the failure of the Legislature to provide money enough to cover expenditures during the period intervening before funds are available from taxation. Although Mr. Roberts recommended repeatedly legislation for the avoidance of this difficulty, which causes waste, no attention was paid to him. The management of court and trust funds by county treasurers has been particularly scandalous. In disregard of the express direction of the courts, thousands of dollars were retained by parties or their attorneys for their own personal benefit. Money has been paid out by county treasurers without certified orders of the courts merely upon the assurance of attorneys that the payments were proper. The rules framed by the comptroller in regard to this matter were constantly disregarded. Excessive allowances were made for costs of attorneys. In the case of one estate of $750, thus robbed, only $60 remained for the payment of the debts against it. By the defalcations of county treasurers, court and trust funds are often depleted, and the beneficiaries, often widows, orphans, and unfortunate litigants, are robbed. Mr. Roberts has recommended legislation on this subject, but no attention, as far as I know, has been paid to it. It is one of those "parochial" questions that the American people appear to have no taste for. But it would seem as if the protection of citizens, especially the poor and weak, was the first duty of the State.