The Right Vote for the Wrong Reasons

Republicans in the state Senate have spiked the so-called homestead exemption, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have enabled local governments to shift the property tax burden from homeowners to commercial property owners.

There are good reasons to oppose the legislation, as I’ve blogged in the past: It would hurt renters, who are disproportionately poor and working class, and it would provide the middle class only a temporary reprieve from steadily upward marching tax rates. If lawmakers really want to help taxpayers, quit with the gimmicks and address the rising cost of government.

Unfortunately, according to the Washington Post, the Republicans didn’t cite those legitimate reasons for killing the bill. Aside from worrying about the higher tax on business, they told the Post, “It was a flawed bill that needed more scrutiny. In particular, they said, the language could be construed to let only certain neighborhoods receive the exemption.”

They’re objecting to the legislation on the basis of a technicality? If the language of the bill were corrected so that exemption applied to an entire locality and not just “certain neighborhoods,” they might consider supporting the homestead exemption? C’mon.

The problem with the legislation is that it is structured as a win-lose proposition: For every person who benefits from tax relief, the tax burden gets shifted to someone else. It’s inherently divisive. The only long-term solutions to the problem of overtaxation are productivity and efficiency. That means streamlining government administration. Encouraging the development of human settlement patterns that are less expensive to serve with roads, utilities and services. Squeezing the bureaucratic bloat out of K-12 education. Reforming a dysfunctional health care system that drives up Medicaid costs. Develop programs that rehabilitate prisoners and ease their re-entry into society. Anything else is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

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  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    oh.. what’s that word that I’m searching for… ummm…

    oh yeah…. WEASELs

    the “no mo taxes” guys, you know the guys who have been in office for how long and who have NOT accomplished ANY of the things that JimB is advocating….

    … you know.. the same guys who say the way to make government more efficient is to CUT TAXES…

    so we have the election coming up and our hypocrite donkey-types have handed the Dems the PERFECT come back from their opponent claiming that he’ll not raise your taxes.. the Dems will respond.. “well we tried to CUT your taxes” and my opponent was OPPOSED to cutting your taxes so do you really believe him?

    this is comical.

    it’s like we all know what we get with the tax&spend types but heaven knows what illogical position the R’s will lurch towards next….

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Jim, I agree on killing this bill. If real estate taxes are too high, the voters should fire their city council or board of supervisors.

    Elect folks who will lower the tax.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    “…it is structured as a win-lose proposition: For every person who benefits from tax relief, the tax burden gets shifted to someone else. It’s inherently divisive. The only long-term solutions to the problem of overtaxation are productivity and efficiency. “

    Well said. Government costs pretty much what it costs, and the money comes from citizens. One way to make government cost less (and seem less burdensome) is to design for the funding mechanisms to be fair and simple, even though those attributes sometimes seem to be mutually contradictory.

    This “tax reduction” scheme is neither productive nor efficient. If there is a problem with taxing (more or less static)real estate to provide funding at a reasonable level compared to what the economy can produce, then we won’t fix it by adding yet another exemption.

    Real estate taxes have many levels of inherent unfairness. Taxation on imputed profit. Taxation without regard to ability to pay. Taxation based on assesment changes and level of services that vary with location. Taxation based on rate of growth. Taxation based on limited growth.

    Renters are paying the real estate taxes for their landlords, but the landlords get to deduct the taxes from their federal income.

    Real estate taxation does provide a stable base that is not (quite as) subject to short term economic fluctuations, but that just means that what might be hardships at the government level get transferred to individuals, who have much less flexibility in response.

    Grandstanding and fiddling at the margins won’t fix this mess. The whole real estate taxation issue needs to go back to square one and be resolved at a system level. And since real estate taxes are partially tied to the amount of kick back from the state, you can’t even (entirely) blame local officials.


  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    all nice words about how to “fix” the problem but who is it that claims as their core principles the desire to find and do the things that will make government smaller and more efficient?

    What I’m pointing out is the folks who talk-the-talk.. and claim as their core principles – less waste, more efficient government and “fixing” tax inequities have cut and run… bailed out.. gone to hide in the closet…

    INSTEAD OF .. saying “well.. this is too extreme – but how about THIS”.

    In other words,,, the proverbial cat got their tongue and they decided instead of offering SOMETHING to address the problems… to assume the “see-no-evil hide-in-the-closet” talking points….

    It’s pretty clear what happened…

    “Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan — a proponent of expanded tax powers for localities to pay for growth-driven services — dismissed the amendment as a “political foray” that would “disrupt the business community and business climate.”

    HUH? Tell me again what that big “R” next to his name means…..

    ahhh.. the truth FINALLY comes out about what our esteemed Donkey party in Virginia REALLY wants…and it’s NOT “no mo taxes” at all… is it?

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Hey Larry,

    Are you the same Larry Gross Ed Grove has pictured running the North Anna and the Rivanna Rivers in his book?


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