Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cold Turkey and Humble Pie...

I quit smoking a lot of times before I really quit smoking. Sometimes for a couple of hours, sometimes for a day, sometimes for a week. And I always started again by smoking just one cigarette. I'm convinced going "cold turkey" is the only way to stop, because until you quit altogether, you haven't really quit. I'm also convinced that not everybody feels that way.

In the current movement to eliminate the property tax, there are a lot of proposals being put forth. Most opponents of the tax agree that a constitutional amendment is the best way to make sure it doesn't reappear in a couple of years. The problem is an amendment has to be passed by 2 legislatures selected by 2 elections, and then passed by the voters in the next election. Right now that puts the end of property taxes at 2012, and that's only if enough legislators get on board and stay on board. It also depends on the majority of voters not falling for the "wild dogs will carry off your babies if we eliminate property taxes!!!" argument that will inevitably surface if by chance the current legislature did pass an amendment.

I'll agree that an amendment is necessary, and something that we should continue to work for. I also know that a lot of people are leery of wild dogs and cold turkey, and if we can't get enough lawmakers to give the people a chance to vote on doing away with the tax, we're probably not going to get them to remove it on their own, either.

So while the Libertarian in me says "all the way, today", the pragmatist in me realizes that the change may be more gradual. When I ran for District 54 State Representative in 2006, I presented a plan for the simplification and eventual elimination of property taxes. It didn't suit some Libertarians because it didn't end them soon enough, and it didn't suit some Republicans and Democrats because it ended them at all.

I do believe the property tax is the most unfair tax in existence today, and it's elimination by any method is preferable to allowing it to stay. I was scolded recently for writing a letter on the subject and neglecting to mention that government spending needs to be reduced, also. As my penance, I'll put forth an abbreviated form of the plan here.

We all know how expensive assessments and reassessments are. We also know that the assessors office already has the square footage of our homes on file. So here's the deal: Tax homes on a square footage basis, and tax them equally per square foot. I know some homes are more expensive than others with the same footage, but if the purpose of the tax is to provide services, it doesn't cost any more to provide them to an expensive home than to a less expensive home. And we've eliminated the need for assessors AND assessments. That's the simplification part.

The elimination part takes a little longer. For simplicity, I chose fifty cents per foot as the taxing rate on homes, understanding that the figure might vary locally by circumstance. The rate would then decrease by 10% a year for ten years. If I did my math correctly, the tax would be gone in ten years, or sooner if the constitutional amendment happened to kick in before that. Every two years a sales tax increase of 1/2% would be added.

Will the plan provide the government with as much money as they are getting now? No, it won't. Will it satisfy people that want no taxation or people that believe government should be allowed to take as much as it wants. No, it won't.

It will provide government with enough money to do what a lot of people believe government should do. Protect us from force and fraud, and provide essential services for it's citizens.

It won't happen without a struggle, and it won't happen if we don't put the right people in office.

And if we don't get involved and pay attention to what's happening, it won't happen at all.

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