Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Short Circuit

I thought that the concept of a property tax “circuit breaker,” which would serve to link property taxes to a homeowner’s income, was a bad idea when it was first proposed back in 2006; I still think that it is a bad idea (see here, here, here, here and here).

So while I support the concept of property tax relief, I think that a much better approach would be the “floating” homestead exemption that was part of my campaign platform when running for District 1 back in 2006; treating all owner-occupied homes in the county equally makes much more sense to me than divvying up property tax liability on the basis of income.

But, of course, treating citizens equally is not part of the progressive ethos, whereas identity politics is. Because of the heavy leftward tilt in Athens-Clarke County politics, such a measure might actually be approved in a local referendum – but I cannot imagine that any such local legislation would make it through the General Assembly anytime soon (at least I hope not).

And just how may we recoup the revenue that may be lost through a circuit breaker? By reductions in spending? Not a chance. By increasing the property tax on those not targeted by this plan, that is how.

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Anonymous said...

Do you know what triggers an ordinance relating to taxes having to go thru the General Assembly?

james said...

Based on what I read in the Banner-Herald, I am working under the assumption that it would require changes to the Unified Government's Charter, as opposed to mere changes to local ordinances, a process that necessitates a referendum.

Our "local delegation" in the General Assembly, meaning everyone in the House and Senate who represents Clarke County - Heard, McKillip, Smith, Cowsert, Hudgens - would have to go along with the idea. The default requirement for such things is unanimity, but they could vote to change the requirement from unanimity to a simple majority, with the stipulation that that vote would require unanimous agreement.

Once such legislation is signed off on by the local delegation, it moves through the legislative process just like any other legislation, requiring approval by both the Georgia House and Senate and the governor's signature. Usually, though, if the locals want it, the rest of the process is pretty much a legislative courtesy.

Once the matter makes it through the General Assembly, we would then have a county-wide referendum on the matter.

This is precisely the process that we went through a few years ago regarding nonpartisan elections for the mayor and commissioners (because unified governments and boards of education have the option of being elected in a nonpartisan manner, unlike "regular" county commissions).

GES said...

Might the M & C's new-found interest in "helping" the property owners be related to HB 233, the new state law mandating a two-year moratorium on property tax increases? I'd bet this is the angle they are playing -- just for public consumption -- while they'll seek and injunction against HB 233 saying they "have a better idea," or something like that.

Many government voices argued vigorously against HB 233 saying it would artificially manipulate valuations, even going so far as to hint it'd "hurt those it was designed to help" and interfere in the free market. Hence, I am tickled, now, that the M & C, is actually talking about doing something they were so much against ...

I see no way the local governments can get around steep increases in the millage rates; they've certainly proven unable to slow or stop the growth in government spending. Just want do it, can't do it, and need to spend even more to help the poor in this downturn ...!

My hope is that when things really hit bottom, and when local voters start voting out these commissioners, that somewhere someone will start a serious discussion about property taxes, sales taxes, exemptions and everything; sure, there are some who favor even more redistribution but somehow I don't think the majority of voters will go along. We shall see, and sooner rather than later, I think!

Anonymous said...

"Might the M & C's new-found interest in "helping" the property owners be related to HB 233"

No. There has been discussion of this since way before HB233 was even a twinkle in the Legislature's eye.

GES said...

Oh, and the reason it has re-emerged recently is what? Concern about the effect of property taxes on the homeowners?

Personally, I think ACC may be subject to HB233, and they are skating on thin ice saying they are exempt; even the author of the law (Lindsey) said the exemptions were intended only for a hand-full of counties not including Clarke.

Ironically, "circuit-breakers" would focus even more taxes on the average home-owner (by giving breaks to PC categories) and as such speed-up the protests and possibly lead to "bullet-proof" laws that local governments cannot avoid. Of course, maybe the Commissioners can sponsor a referendum that endorses secession from the state of GA?

Anonymous said...

"Oh, and the reason it has re-emerged recently is what?"

Apparently you failed to read the previous post. It has not "re-emerged recently" but has been talked about by the Mayor at least since she ran for re-election and by several other folks for a while now.

"they are skating on thin ice saying they are exempt"

No elected official has said that.

Anonymous said...

I will not bother to dig up the link to the ABH headline for you, but it said "ACC EXEMPT: Property Tax Moratorium." Yep, and they quoted the ACC lawyer saying they were exempt; and also saying the law would hurt those it intended to help. Only in a perfect world would there be any link between what the lawyer for the government says, and the thoughts of those who are actually elected to lead the government ... ;)

Yes, sure, the circuit-breakers demonstrate a genuine concern for tax payers ... lol

Anonymous said...

"I will not bother to dig up the link to the ABH headline for you, but it said "ACC EXEMPT: Property Tax Moratorium." Yep, and they quoted the ACC lawyer saying they were exempt"

Good, as I wouldn't use the ABH as your source of information. The County Attorney was working on behalf of the Tax Assessor's Office, not the elected officials. Is it too hard for you to know what you're talking about before posting?