So how much does government cost? And how fair are those costs?

I was chatting with a Corvallis business person the other day and I was showed the permit that the business is required to have from the Benton County Health Department to continue to operate. A county health inspector comes to the business twice a year and the permit comes in the mail. With a price that has been escalating significantly.

In 2004 the business owner paid $425 for his permit. His permit for 2016 costs $750. That’s an increase of 76 percent.

The business owner noted that if he had raised his prices 76 percent during that time frame he would be out of business. Also, a customer can choose to patronize a different business. You can't do that with health department permits. There is no permit shop down the street that is issuing cheaper permits.

Here are other lenses through which to view the situation:

• The business owner generally pays his employees the minimum wage, which has risen from $7.05 per hour in 2004 to $9.25 in 2016. That’s an increase of 31 percent.

• The consumer price index, meanwhile, has gone up 25.4 percent during that time frame.

Fair? Foul?

Mitch Anderson, director of the Benton County Health Department, confirmed the numbers I was provided and noted that county policy requires him to receive “full cost recovery of direct and indirect costs of providing public services. Full cost recovery includes labor, materials and overhead related to performing a fee-supported activity.”

Anderson added that fees are set annually and must be approved by the Board of Commissioners.

So the county’s cost of doing business is rising at a significantly quicker pace than inflation or the wage costs of small business.

Again, is that fair or foul?

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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