If you haven't heard by now many Bernalillo County property owners were struck by the state's tax lightning - some to the tune of as much as 400%. Senator Boitano's bill would cap the increase at 3% and lower assessed values to 2004 levels. The objective is to make sure that two property owners in the same subdivision in houses that may be identical and even right next door to each other are paying similar amounts in property taxes (ABQ Journal - Subscription).
Our Eyes told us about one case where the property taxes went from $1,900 a year to $8,000 a year. That's more than a 400% increase making the monthly property tax bill $667 a month an increase of $408 a month. Unfortunately, large increases aren't uncommon and tend to hurt older property owners on a fixed income the most -their move to a smaller home to save money and effort only results in being struck by "tax lightning."
These tax inequities are particularly pronounced in the older areas of the city where homeowners can be and often are the original owners. The result is that one neighbor is often paying 2, 3, 4 hundred percent more than the other for the same services.
We've long maintained that the best tax policy is one that is wide (spread out over the maximum number of people) and shallow. The result is a revenue stream for the state that doesn't punish achievement and is less susceptible to the natural cycle of the economy; most people call that stability.
Right now just about every county and every municipality in the state is facing budget shortfalls due to the correction in our economy. Unfortunately, almost every governmental entity has been spending the largess of the last eight years like drunken sailors. Even more distressing is that they've been spending our cash on new programs that will require on-going taxpayer support.
(Sidebar)SB 450 does something that we haven't seen in quite a while; it imposes restrictions on spending by disallowing egregious jumps in assessed values maintaining taxpayer equity and tax predictability.
A perfect example of this short sighted party like it's 1999 spending is the Rail Runner that is projected to cost you and me $20 MILLION a year just to keep the trains running, even if they're not on time!
So who doesn't want this type of sensible tax legislation - just about every governmental entity that relies on property taxes for a large portion of its revenue. Can you say the City of Albuquerque?
The only way to reduce government spending and stop our spiraling tax burden is to restrict the amount of money going into the system. Legislators will be forced to create priorities for spending not just new programs for our tax dollars.
SB 450 is a step in the right direction. If you'd like to help move this legislation through committee contact one or all of the legislators listed below. The first hearing is Tuesday in the House and Government Affairs Committee - then it will move on to the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.
The problem is time. The Session ends Thursday and getting it through committee in a couple of days will be difficult to say the least. You can help it along simply by letting the committee members know that you want the bill heard on the House floor.
Representative Edward C. Sandoval Chair Democrat
Representative Roberto "Bobby" J.Gonzales Vice Chair Democrat
Representative Janice E. Arnold-Jones Member Republican
Representative Ernest H. Chavez Member Democrat
Representative Nathan P. Cote Member Democrat
Representative Anna M. Crook Member Republican
Representative Keith J. Gardner Member Republican
Representative William J. Gray Member Republican
Representative George J. Hanosh Member Democrat
Representative Ben Lujan Member Democrat
Representative Rodolpho "Rudy" S. Martinez Member Democrat
Representative Andy Nuñez Member Democrat
Representative Daniel P. Silva Member Democrat
Representative James R.J. Strickler Member Republican
Representative Thomas C. Taylor Member Republican
Representative Richard D. Vigil Member Democrat
----- Post Script -----
We received a comment that greatly concerns us. It's the first comment below. The poster argues that somehow it's OK for someone to have a 400% increase in taxes simply because the taxpayer may own a more expensive property than others.
Fairness is a value and a virtue that must apply equally to everyone or it ceases to exist. There is no such thing as being "more fair" even though society is replete with examples of government attempting to do so. Affirmative Action, admission quotas, and "progressive" taxation are all examples of society attempting to be "more fair."
The truth is that creating a system that favors one individual over another is by definition unfair, discriminatory, and just plain wrong - whether or not the favored individual is in the minority, majority, poor, or filthy rich.
As a community and as a nation it's long past time we get past this idea that being fair somehow requires us to be "more fair" to one group and "less fair" to another. When we finally understand and implement that concept we will truly have thrown off the shackles of our past.