CITIZENS   FOR  LIMITED  TAXATION
and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

CLT UPDATE
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Update on Proposition 2˝ Senior Override Exclusion


Yes, we understand that cities and towns are struggling to pay the bills - and many seniors are struggling to keep up with property taxes. But this is little more than an attempt to stack the deck and the Senate should reject it.

A Boston Herald editorial
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Don’t ease path to big tax hikes


State Rep. Ruth Balser, D-Newton, sponsor of a bill that would let local communities exempt senior citizens from the impact of Proposition 2˝ overrides, says it is "a way to help elderly homeowners."

Don't believe it. The bill, which may go before the House today, is just using senior citizens as cover. It is not about helping elderly homeowners. It is about making it easier for cities and towns to raise property taxes . . .

The Eagle-Tribune
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Bill is about raising taxes, not helping seniors
By Taylor Armerding


Barbara Anderson's CLT Commentary

State Rep. Brad Jones, the minority party leader, sent me the new text of H.2840, and the roll call vote that passed it in the House late Wednesday night. Note that all the Republicans voted with us, along with some of the "old-timer" Democrats who remember the Prop 2˝ battles of the ‘80s – and a few others.   The bill is in third reading and will be coming back to the House for enactment after school vacation week; then it will go to the Senate. [The Balser Amendment.]

In the past a similar bill was killed in the Senate; another got through but was vetoed by the Republican governor. We probably don’t have that back-up now – though if necessary I will call the governor’s office. Our first attempt here will be to contact the House members who voted Yes to get them to change their vote (slim to 0 chance), then to try to stop it in the Senate (slightly better chance).

The bill has been filed by Rep. Balser to aid Newton’s Mayor Cohen in getting a a debt exclusion override for his $200 million Taj Mahal high school. But it not a home rule bill; all communities will be able to accept it, and give an abatement to qualified senior citizens of the override amount. The goal is to get seniors to stay home instead of going to the polls to vote No. This is not a theory; proponents have publicly admitted it.

If a community accepts this, the seniors will get an abatement for the amount of the override, at least until the town decided to reverse that abatement; then they will get a very big unexpected tax increase. In the meantime, every other property taxpayer will have to pay for the override, plus the seniors’ share.

Seniors are eligible, at least temporarily, for the abatement if their income is not in excess of $60,000 and the real estate tax exceeds 10% of that income. A town treasurer tells us that this would be" a logistical nightmare to implement, with a lot of unneeded work to justify it. You would have to keep two sets of books - one for what the senior would pay and one for what the new owner would pay if the senior sold the house - since that would have to get readjusted after a sale, for example."

No one has thought this through. They just want the overrides to pass, especially for Newton’s mayor Cohen, a former House member.

We are asking you to call/email your state rep and senator sometime before Monday, February 25, thanking a House member who voted no, asking for a No vote from the others and your Senator. We are attaching the bill, the roll call, and our memo to the House before the vote.

Barbara Anderson

 


The Boston Herald
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Boston Herald editorial
Don’t ease path to big tax hikes


House lawmakers have found a nifty way to make it easier for Massachusetts cities and towns to raise property taxes. Dangling an exemption before elderly homeowners might encourage them to vote in favor of a Proposition 2˝ override - or not bother voting at all.

Yes, we understand that cities and towns are struggling to pay the bills - and many seniors are struggling to keep up with property taxes. But this is little more than an attempt to stack the deck and the Senate should reject it.

The House bill would give communities the option of making low- and moderate-income seniors exempt from any property tax increase associated with a Prop 2 override.

So if a community - oh, let’s just pick Newton out of the hat - decides to build a $186 million high school, then asks property owners to vote in favor of a separate tax hike to balance the municipal side of the budget, elderly residents who are income-eligible would be exempt from the ensuing tax increase. Did we mention this bill is sponsored by Rep. Ruth Balser (D-Newton)?

On the one hand, we appreciate the idea of protecting seniors who may be property-rich but cash-poor, living on fixed incomes in homes built or purchased a generation ago.

But we’d be shocked if that were the only result of this legislation. In many communities it is those residents alone who keep an eye on the town’s bottom line and are holding back a flood of tax hikes for Taj Mahal schools and fat union contracts.

And what about the other residents - the young families, the municipal employees - who are having just as much trouble meeting their quarterly tax payments? Not only do they get no relief - but their burden would actually grow because of the elderly exemption.

This bill will look marvelous on those campaign mailers that land in the mailboxes of elderly voters in the coming months. And it will give municipal officials a smoother path to an infusion of cash. But as Rep. Mary Rogeness (R-Longmeadow) put it, it is “representation without taxation.” It is bad policy and it ought to be stopped.


The Eagle-Tribune
Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bill is about raising taxes, not helping seniors
By Taylor Armerding


State Rep. Ruth Balser, D-Newton, sponsor of a bill that would let local communities exempt senior citizens from the impact of Proposition 2˝ overrides, says it is "a way to help elderly homeowners."

Don't believe it. The bill, which may go before the House today, is just using senior citizens as cover. It is not about helping elderly homeowners. It is about making it easier for cities and towns to raise property taxes — coincidentally the very thing that Gov. Deval Patrick claimed would decrease if he was elected.

Of course some elderly homeowners need property tax relief. But the reality that Balser and others want to hide is that relief is already available — there are multiple ways for seniors to cut their property tax bills or to get help paying them.

Seniors with low incomes can qualify for abatements. Seniors who have suffered the "misfortune" of a vast increase in their property value can take out home equity loans or reverse mortgages to help them pay their property taxes without being forced out of their homes. While that would decrease the value of an asset to their heirs, it is not the responsibility of taxpayers to subsidize the inheritances of others.

Another reality that the so-called "advocates" of senior citizens try to hide is that while there are obviously poor seniors, they are, as an age group, better off financially than younger people. They have more discretionary income. Why is it that elders are the ones who buy the bulk of state Lottery tickets, and are the majority of those on the buses to Foxwoods and other casinos?

If anybody needs a tax break, it is younger homeowners — those working two jobs, with three or four kids and college costs looming, who are taking effective pay cuts every year because their health insurance and energy costs are spiking and who are struggling to put aside a few bucks for their own retirement.

In short, everybody — not just seniors — needs tax relief. Property owners of all ages are being crushed by tax increases that are increasingly used to fund lavish pay, benefit and pension packages for unionized public employees. And state legislators have shown no willingness to resist the insatiable demands of the unions.

But political leaders know that elderly citizens tend to vote in larger percentages than younger voters — in large measure because they have more time. They are not working or shuttling the kids from one practice to another. The focus of this bill is to "buy off" those seniors — bribe them with an incentive to stay home when a Proposition 2˝ override is on the ballot.

Don't be fooled. This is not about helping seniors. It is about hurting everybody but government employees.

Call your representative and senator and tell them this is a vote you will remember.
 


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