Nowhere except in my recent
column in some Massachusetts dailies have we seen an analysis of
"Christy’s Proposition 1,"
even though it is his signature issue.
We do not blame editors and
reporters who haven’t done this: their instincts probably tell them
there is little substance on the other side of a proposition that is
too muddy to wade through. But on the surface, it is making sense to
some voters, who need to know what it is.
"Proposition 1," according to
the Mihos website, "will cap property values from the time of purchase
until the property is sold." Christy promises that, if the Legislature
won’t pass this, he will put it on the 2008 ballot.
This is not possible. The
state constitution requires that all property be assessed at full
market value (Sudbury decision, 1974, which mandated regular property
revaluations). It would take a constitutional amendment to freeze
assessments, and that would require the cooperation of the Legislature
and take at least four years.
Christy says he has found a
way around this, and cites "Sylvester
vs. the Commissioner of Revenue," which says that the state
can have residency requirements for the veteran property tax
exemption. We see no connection here to freezing assessments, so
"Proposition 1" would require a constitutional amendment.
If it did get to the ballot in
2010, we would expect voters to reject it on the grounds of
unfairness: why should homeowners who move -- for a job, for other
economic reasons, to be near parents or grandchildren, to a larger or
a smaller house that fits their family – pay more than those who stay
put, and then also be forced to pay the stay-putters share of tax
This is what would happen
under Proposition 2½: a community gets a 2.5 percent increase in the
property tax levy each year, regardless of what happens with
assessments – so all local taxpayers subsidize any property tax break.
Christy doesn’t seem to understand this, saying only that the
"missing" revenue would be replaced with more local aid. Does he plan
to change Prop 2½?
Mihos and Deval Patrick tell
us that an income tax rollback causes higher property taxes. No, only
a Prop 2½ override can cause a community’s property taxes to increase
more than Prop 2½ allows. Overrides occur– or don’t occur – whether or
not there is new local aid. In the past, local aid has been used for
pay raises that increase "fixed costs," leading to more requests for
overrides. We await a proposal that, by law, cuts all property tax
bills when local aid increases; otherwise we will have both higher
income taxes and higher property taxes, as in the past.
It is also interesting that
some of those who oppose the income tax rollback by expressing concern
about property taxes -- like the so-called
Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and Edward Moscovitch of Cape
Ann Economics – have been long-standing opponents of Proposition 2½.
For more detailed information
about "Proposition 1," you can read my column, "Mihos
offers Massachusetts voters a pig in a poke."
Barbara Anderson --
– 30 –