Told Ya So

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.

6 Comments

Filed under taxes, Tennessee

6 responses to “Told Ya So

  1. chrome agnomen

    i reckon that if you replace the word ‘magical’ with ‘delusional’, then you get closer to the MO of thinking on the right. as VDE is fond of saying over at BJ, line them all up for immediate target practice, a solution with which i am in complete accord. i volunteer for reload duty, since i’m unemployed, and looking for worthwhile work.

  2. It’s a sick/funny thing: I’e had a few discussions with small business owners who are in New York, making money… and they plan to retire to someplace like Tennessee. Because “there’s no income tax” there!

    So at the very time in their life when they will need the far better social services that blue states tend to offer (which they have been paying for all along) they will move to a place that is going to nickel and dime them to death while not giving them anything in the form of services. And as they age, they are GOING to need them.

    But heck, I can’t tell conservatives anything about economics. They know it all.

  3. I moved to Central New York (Yeah, I don’t really get the “All caps” thing, either) and I hear from at least a half dozen people a week that they are gonna retire and move to someplace that doesn’t have WINTER, live the life of Reilly and laugh at us poor dumb rubes up here in CNY. Most of those people are union or union equivalent, non-bargained employees of the three nukes or the monstrous Novellis plant here in Oswego.

    They don’t own televisions or talk to their relatives who moved down south over the last 40 years, I guess. If they had then they might know that taxes are bad here, they’re just as bad elsewhere–by any other name.

    The city property tax here is set to go up 80% (pre-negotiation number) in 2014. Everybody’s screaming, “Fire the help at the DPW, Housing Office, Codes Enforcement, Fire & Police Depts…”, “Throw the bums out! who passed this measure!!”. They seem to be biliously unaware of the fact that a largish chunk of that tax hike is for monies to upgrade the sewer system, per a consent decree signed by the mayor, the EPA and the state of NY. That’s NOT negotiable. After about fifty years of playing “Kick the can down the road”, the pols and taxpayers are suddenly concerned.

  4. Jeez, Southern Beale. did you finally get around to banning Jim from Burnin’ Stoopit? I mean, this post is like red meat throwed at a junkyard dog.

    • No I did not ban him. I’ve banned maybe 4 people in all my years of blogging. And I know from Sitemeter that he’s been reading this post. But he doesn’t comment here any longer. And I can’t say I’m sad about that. Good riddance to trolls, I say.