July 22, 2021
The Joint Committee on
Dear Member of the
With all the current
focus and concern these days over income inequality and affordable
housing, some of the bills before this committee if enacted will
unnecessarily exacerbate both situations.
Especially at this
period of an historic abundance of state revenue — some $4 billion in
"unanticipated" revenue surplus plus over $5 billion in federal "relief"
— this is not the time to justify clawing even more from taxpayers'
pockets. After all, they paid for all that revenue surplus one way or
another. Yet this is what a number of bills before this committee
attempt to do.
To borrow a popular
phrase, "C'mon man."
titled An Act relative to regional transportation ballot initiatives),
and H.3086 (An Act relative to regional ballot initiatives) in similar
fashion all intend to increase the burden of already stretched property
S.1804 (An Act
authorizing a local affordable housing surcharge) intends to heap even
more onto their burden.
We recognized that in
the end each form of proposed increased taxation is left to voters to
decide, which is better than having property tax increases simply
imposed by fiat, as was the case before CLT's Proposition 2½ was adopted
by the voters on the 1980 ballot.
But first let us
consider income equality.
Often today Proposition
2½ overrides and debt exclusions are adopted by a majority of voters
within a municipality. Those within that majority have considered the
financial impact on their family budgets and have determined that they
can afford the increase. But what of the minority (and often
override/debt exclusion vote results are a close call) who opposed their
property taxes being further increased, those who simply cannot afford
to pay more without cutting their expenses somewhere else — or either
selling or losing their homes? Who among this committee will speak for
Then let us consider
While the state's goal
seems to be to create more affordable housing, it is doing quite the
opposite by pricing home ownership further out of reach through
encouraging excessive property taxation.
Many if not most
homeowners are perhaps considered by some as "property rich," but those
homeowners realize no gain unless they sell their homes. Instead, they
struggle to pay the cost of home ownership so that they can remain where
they live: mortgages, insurance, maintenance, and taxes. So long as
they can get by with making their payments they do not become homeless,
nor require subsidized affordable housing. A large number of them are
senior citizens on fixed incomes. When their taxes go up a commensurate
increase in their fixed incomes doesn’t follow to compensate. Who among
this committee will speak for them?
In conclusion, these
proposals are unnecessary and burdensome; they are solutions in search
of a problem. Current provisions already exist if a municipality deems
it necessary to increase the property tax burden on its residents.
Those include a general override of Proposition 2½ restrictions and the
debt exclusion for specific purposes over a set period of time, if a
majority of voters so agree.
When it comes to
specifically funding affordable housing, the Community Preservation Act
is available. Revenue raised through it, if adopted by a majority of
voters, statutorily can be spent on open space, historic preservation,
outdoor recreation — and affordable housing.
CLT and its members
around the state hope this committee will stand with and speak for
beleaguered taxpayers, not unnecessarily contribute further to their
burden. We ask you to reject bills H.2978, S.1899, H.3086 and S.1804.
Thank you for your
[For your convenience
copy of this testimony as a printable letter is attached.]