Stories like this have me playing the world’s tiniest violin for the short-sighted idiots who bow and scrape before anti-tax zealots without thinking about the long term consequences:
Spring Hill regrets 3-year property tax elimination
City needed years to pull out of financial trouble caused by elimination of property tax
SPRING HILL — Hindsight is 20/20, and Spring Hill officials now look back on the three-year elimination of the city’s property tax as the greatest contributor to the financial trouble from which the city only recently emerged.
Alderman Eliot Mitchell, who was on the board that unanimously voted in 2005 to eliminate the property tax, now calls it his “worst decision” since first being elected in 2003.
It wasn’t until subsequent years that Spring Hill officials say they realized how detrimental the vote was, when the city became financially restrained by a burdensome internal debt and inability to build infrastructure and road projects to keep up with its rapid growth.
“That one decision, eliminating the property tax, affected us all the way from 2005 to 2013, even though they reinstated it in 2008,” City Administrator Victor Lay said. “When you eliminate property taxes, there are some benefits. A lot of folks will move to your town, but not having adequate revenue creates a lot of other problems.”
Ah yes, I remember this story. I remember we all told them this was a stupid idea but no, they had drunk the anti-tax Kool-Aid. Everything was booming back then, and of course no boom ever goes bust, does it? In the land of Conservative Magical Thinking, everything is shinier, sparklier and more wonderful when you eliminate taxes. The pies are made higher and rainbows trickle down on us all. Except that it doesn’t work that way. Shit needs to be paid for, people.
Give Vice Mayor Bruce Hull some props for this candid admission:
“I was as excited as anybody else when they eliminated the property taxes,” said Hull, who first became an alderman in 2007. “But I didn’t know anything at the time about how the city government operated.”
No, of course not. You don’t need to know anything about how government works to get elected, you just need to spout ignorant nonsense about Big Government and Low Taxes and Freedom. The Tea Party has proved that!
I’ve been very amused to watch what’s happening in the Nashville suburb of Oak Hill, a completely residential city with no property tax. It’s funded completely by the Hall Tax, Tennessee’s income tax on interest and dividends. As soon as the Republicans took over the state legislature they began the process of eliminating the Hall Tax, which is the sole source of funding for a city like Oak Hill. The tax has been chipped away at for years but it will be completely eliminated soon, leaving some cities with no other source of revenue looking for ways to finance their operations. In Oak Hill the solution has been to build a commercial district, but the push-back from residents has been strong.
I just love the Conservative Magical Thinking at work here. The citizens of Oak Hill are by and large quite wealthy, and they’re also overwhelmingly Republican. I’m sure most of these folks have embraced the anti-tax Kool-Aid the Republicans have been selling. They voted for the Hall Tax elimination, and now their choice is to either initiate a property tax or build a commercial district and bring in some sales tax. Sales tax is of course the most regressive tax there is, so it’s no surprise that this is the direction city leaders have gone. But residents are up in arms. They want their cake and they want to eat it, too.
It’s an interesting conundrum, one I predicted a mere two years ago. Republicans in the legislature start playing the “pity the poor retirees suffering under the burdensome Hall Tax” card every time this issue comes up, but let’s be real, people: this is a policy that favors the state’s wealthiest. The people “suffering” under the Hall Tax are not retired teachers counting their nickels and dimes to pay the electric bill every month. It’s rich assholes like Lee Beaman who have massive stock and investment portfolios. And those are the very people who will profit off of turning Oak Hill’s 95 residential acres into a commercial strip.
Wake up and smell the bullshit propaganda, folks. It’s all about funneling more wealth to those at the tippy-top, while the poor retirees our Republicans claim to care so much about have fewer pennies to pay the light bill because our state has the highest sales taxes in the country. Stuff needs to be paid for. The question is: who does the paying? The people with the huge stock portfolios, or the people buying bulk toilet paper because they can save five cents?
Remember: you don’t need to know anything about how government works to get elected, and by all means let’s not discuss the difference between sales tax and a tax on investment income, or who pays these taxes. That requires some critical thinking, which as the bumper sticker says is our other national deficit.
All you need to do is repeat “taxes bad!” and let the Lee Beamans take home more money because it all trickles down to us eventually, right? Er, maybe not.