Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More on the tax hike

People have been protesting the tax hike for a few weeks now, with pickets outside the state house and the governor's mansion. One common thread is that the protesters tend to be from nice neighborhoods, because they're getting hit harder than anyone else. I didn't discuss this in my last rambling tirade about the property tax increase, but I think it bears mentioning. This is because the government has changed (at the court's demand) the way they assess value. Until recently, the assessed value of your home has been its estimated replacement cost. We've been told that if our house were located two miles west and five miles north, it'd be worth four or five times its current value; what holds our property value down is our neighborhood. But this hasn't been reflected in the assessed value, until now. Now all of the houses that are no nicer than ours, but located in extremely desirable neighborhoods, are actually expected to pay more tax than we do, to reflect the fact that their home is actually worth more. I have a hard time feeling much pity for these people with large incomes and nice homes in neighborhoods where they never hear gunshots. It hits them hard, of course; nobody ever lives beneath their means, so an extra bill every month is a hardship for everyone. But I'm actually enjoying, a little, the fact that for a change a government policy is harsher on those in nice neighborhoods than on those of us in the 'hood.

It isn't a progressive tax, though. The percentage is the same, regardless of the home's value. But people with nice houses pay more because they have nicer houses, just like they pay more income tax than I do because they make more money than I do. Given that, I don't think the cries of "Unfair!" are legitimate. It's bad policy, I think, but it's certainly fair to base property tax on a home's value, rather than its replacement cost....

Comical observation: most of the protests have been organized behind the scenes by the libertarian party. The party isn't attaching its name to the protests, but the people organizing them and the people being interviewed by the news are familiar names, if you read the libertarian column on the ballot every year. Sneaky, no?

No comments: