BIG UPDATE: This one needs to be up top. I should have looked at the CTF site, it would have saved me a bunch of typing: THE INSIDIOUS PROPERTY TAX OR WHO REALLY OWNS OUR HOMES
Before I get going, kudos should go to Davis County Watch (DCW) for tracking this issue (plus, as a shameless plug, the blog’s author was recently ‘featured’ in a Standard Examiner article – congrats).
Since homes were reassessed, many of us have seen a significant tax bill increase. Folks I’ve talked to so far have had increases ranging from $300-1,200. So they have the pleasure of paying the county more so they don’t take away their homes. As stated on DCW, some of this reflects the good work of the assessor catching up on valuations (I know several people in my neighborhood who will be contesting the values of their homes, however – they just wish their homes were worth that much!). However, a portion also reflects the lame duck commissioner’s sticking all homeowners in Davis County with a 37% tax increase before leaving office.
Frankly, the current commissioners bear part of the blame for the 37% increase. They quietly sat during the public and commission meetings where the proposed tax increase was being presented. At no time did any of them speak up and say “we disagree with this tax” and/or “this issue should be left for the incoming commission, rather than a lame duck commission”. So they were content to sit there and allow it to pass. Essentially, they de facto supported the tax, in my opinion (they certainly didn’t speak against it). This, despite Milburn’s tough talk on taxes at the Republican convention where he handily knocked out Commissioner McConkie and despite Louenda Downs’ answer to a question on when taxes are appropriate (you will have to scroll down, look for answer 3 under her name). They certainly seem content to try to pass the buck the the previous commission.
Another issue of note is that the Huntsman administration’s tax advisers are very supportive of, and actively promoting, property taxes. At the legislature, his tax experts always allude to a “three legged stool” of taxation with property taxes being their favorite leg. The reason his tax experts love the tax so much is that it is a stable tax. In other words, it doesn’t fluctuate in an economic downturn (unlike consumption taxes etc) because people need a place to live. Of course, they don’t consider the impact of property taxes on those on fixed incomes, young families with their first home (already burdened with a fairly large mortage), and those with lower incomes (remember, renters also ultimately pay property taxes, not the landlord). Worse yet, the “tax experts” do not consider what happens to those paying property taxes during an economic downturn – if the bread winner loses his/her job, who cares – the government will still have a “stable” source of income (far be it from them to tighten their belts in any significant manner during these times).
Alexander Hamilton was right. In Federalist 12 and 21 Hamilton while arguing for a strong Union rather than a Confederacy of States, made strong arguments for consumption taxes and against property taxes. Hamilton went so far as to warn that “In this country if the principal part be not drawn from commerce, it must fall with oppressive weight upon land [property taxes].” [emphasis added]
Finally, not to be outdone, despite all the tax hikes and fees already faced in the south, Bountiful and Centerville Mayors are pushing for a RAP tax to fund another special interest group’s hobby.