Friday, May 24, 2013
There has been much in the paper about property taxes lately, mostly regarding the impact of revaluations on tax payers. There's a good reason, and it's not the size of the budgets alone.
Take a moment and follow this scenario:
Town A did NOT increase the tax levy one year.
But it had it's required revaluation, resulting in:
Property Owner Smith's taxes increasing $8,500
Property Owner Jones's taxes decreasing $8,500
The town did NOT receive more taxes.
In effect, owner Smith paid $8,500 to lower Jones' tax bill by $8,500. Can you see that a revaluation creates tax increases (and decreases) for large numbers of tax payers that have nothing to do with budget needs? If you see nothing wrong with this, stop reading.
Is it any wonder the thousands of property owners are upset with property taxes?
Slashing budgets, cutting services, juggling tax rates among owner occupied properties, non owner occupied properties, small businesses, large businesses, using different formulas for revaluations, none of these gets the the root of the problem - the UNFAIR DISTRIBUTION of the tax levy burden.
We do it this way because we have always done it this way. Is this really the best we can do?
It's way past time to take a hard look at property taxes and to devise a better, less costly, more efficient system where all property owners pay only their fair share of the tax burden, whatever it is.
Please visit the Rhode Island Gets Honorable Taxation website and let your voice be heard.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
From today's Providence Journal:
"Lawyers for Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes formally told a judge Monday that he wants to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity after outside experts diagnosed his mental illness."
If everyone agrees that an act was committed (the definition of guilty) by someone does it make any sense to say that the act wasn't committed, yet isn't that what the above verdict says?
I've always thought that instead of Not guilty..., the plea should be "Guilty by reason of insanity", but I'm no legal expert.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Just a couple of comments about the Providence Journal front page article, "Senate panel holds master-lever bill." Aug 3, Page A1 where lawmakers said it needs more study.
1. Let's be honest. How often are bills actually studied after being dumped into the "further study" bucket? It's just a euphemism for "RIP".
2. If it's really too hard for a person to vote for each candidate on the ballot then maybe that person isn't qualified to vote. In fact it might even be a better qualification test than just having a picture ID or an electric bill to be allowed to vote.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Will people ever understand that supporting something is not the same as allowing something to happen? I doubt that Catholics "support" Judaism or that Jews "support" Catholicism but is there any doubt that each wants the other to have the right to practice their beliefs?
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Many problems facing Rhode Island taxpayers appear to be self inflicted. For example, the huge deficits in union pension funds. City officials, taxpayers and union leaders ignored obvious funding deficiencies for many years creating crushing deficits that now threaten to bankrupt local communities. Everyone loses yet we continue to do it.
One would expect that pocketbook issues producing increasing tax burdens would inspire taxpayers to act in their own best interest, but it doesn't seem to happen. Why?
Revaluation might be partly to blame. Revaluation to market values is considered a necessary part of the Property Tax because it is expected that it will distribute taxes fairly. Revaluation does ensure that a new owner will pay a fair tax on the property just purchased but is it also fair for the majority of taxpayers? Perhaps not.
With every revaluation there are many taxpayers who will receive tax increases but also many who will not. Think about it; this means that just some, not all, taxpayers shoulder the full burden of any tax increase. And they aren't necessarily the owners of the more expensive homes or the wealthiest in the community. Those increases are just as likely to fall on the backs of owners of lower priced homes. That's just how real estate markets work.
This presents a dilemma for local government: how to combine the fair tax a new owner receives after a revaluation with a fair tax for everyone else that's in harmony with the needs of the community, the tax levy. See one idea to address this problem at http://righttax.org.
And if we can involve all taxpayers fairly and reasonably it might even lead to better government overall.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Regarding “When a majority is not a majority” Commentary in the Providence Journal, December 26, Dan K. Thomasson wrote about the effect of Senate rules, especially the filibuster, on the Senate's performance He feels, correctly I believe, that they make a mockery of the principle of majority rule.
The issue goes deeper than Senate rules however. The problem lies within the party system itself. Our founders had serious concerns about the political party system.
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
JOHN ADAMS Oct. 2, 1789
“Much indeed to be regretted, party disputes are now carried to such a length, and truth is so enveloped in mist and false representation, that it is extremely difficult to know through what channel to seek it. This difficulty to one, who is of no party, and whose sole wish is to pursue with undeviating steps a path which would lead this country to respectability, wealth, and happiness, is exceedingly to be lamented. But such, for wise purposes, it is presumed, is the turbulence of human passions in party disputes, when victory more than truth is the palm contended for.’
GEORGE WASHINGTON, Jul. 27, 1795
They would be horrified to know how much worse it is than they feared. Our elected “leaders” appear not to have the courage to do anything that might risk party disapproval. When we see a party leader on TV before a microphone surrounded by party members, one really sees faceless people playing follow the leader. Rarely does a party member have the guts to stray from the party line.
That being the case we could save an enormous amount of money if instead of people, we choose numbers according to party. Each voter in electing senators would simply have two votes - two Democrats, two Republicans, one of each, one or none; not people, just numbers. That seems to be what we essentially have in the Senate anyway.
The use of the filibuster, to prevent the majority party from essentially riding roughshod over the minority, is laudable and in keeping with the very idea of the Senate, to give each state equal representation by providing two votes per state regardless of size.
But it has been perverted in its application and simply must be corrected, now. Today, just threatening a filibuster effectively changes the meaning of the word majority from 51 votes to 60 votes of 100 member senate.
H.L. Menken was right: "Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right."
Saturday, December 22, 2012
It is more than understandable that there has been so much written about guns since the terribly sad events in Newtown, CT. last week. We all want answers. Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA suggested that the only answer to " a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun". In the Providence Journal on Saturday, Dec. 22, a writer agrees, "Good guys with guns are the solution to bad guys with guns."
I suggest that you consider a better solution to "bad guys with guns" - "bad guys with NO guns".
And if we really are serious, arm the teachers with more and better mental health resources for students.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
There was a piece on the editorial page of the Providence Journal on Friday, November 2, 2012, “Another scary oversight failure” by JoAnne Fitzpatrick which caught my attention. It dealt with the failure of quality control at a state run (Mass.) pharmaceutical monitoring lab, similar to the failure at Framingham, MA company, New England Compounding Center, (NCCC) resulting in up to 28 deaths throughout the United States from 328 fungal infections.
When the problem was discovered new rules were swiftly put in place. At first read, the story appears to be a discussion of too much regulation vs not enough regulation.
But I see a “Tyranny of the Labels”.
To illustrate, let’s call Label 1 “Big Government / More Regulations”. People with this label ordinarily respond to problems by creating new laws and/or more regulations, distrusting business to do what’s in the best interest of most or all the people. Business’ #1 priority is profit, everything else is secondary.
Label 2 can be identified as “Small Government / Less Regulation”. Those with Label “2” believe that government regulations generally stifle innovation and entrepreneurship, that less government regulation is always better and that free markets, independent of government interference, will always provide the best and most economical solutions to problems.
Marketers have been paid many millions to convince legislators and the public that only one label is right and the other is pure evil. And it seems that millions of us have accepted it.
In the above story, clearly there were laws in place before the contaminations were discovered. Do we really need more laws and more regulation to address the failures, or do we need better people to administer the laws already in place? While new laws can give the appearance that legislators are doing their jobs, is it more of a “feel good” exercise that merely makes it harder for business to function and survive?
On the other hand, by letting the marketplace decide what’s right, are we saying that we will tolerate some deaths and disease until the market can weed out the offending businesses and that we accept these tragedies simply as a cost of doing business?
We have been conditioned by slick marketing firms to make choices according to the label that makes us more comfortable instead thinking deeper and deciding who or what is the best choice in each situation, thus avoiding the “Tyranny of the Labels”.
A depressing instance of labelling is the “Straight Party Ticket” choice on our ballot which suggests that the individual means little, that the label is far more important. It's a shameful practice and should be abolished now.
I recently attended a local candidate forum and was so disappointed to hear some good candidates suggest that the audience vote for the members of their party - a suggestion that it was the most important consideration. Ironically that party has been the victim of the “Party Ticket” choice at the state level for years.
This is not a simple issue. Until we choose the best individuals, regardless of labels, we will suffer from Tyranny of the Labels, and the United States will continue to lose respect even among its own people.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Is anyone else tired of hearing about how tax hikes will hurt "hard working" Americans and take your "hard earned" money? Guess what. There are lots of people who don't work hard for their money. Donald Trump inherited a fortune from daddy; hard earned money? I don't think so.
Taxes take money from everyone, hard working and the not so hard working. The most important thing is to know whether taxes are used for the benefit of the public or for the benefit of a chosen few who often aren't very hard working at all.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
When we experience symptoms such as pain, dizziness or shortness of breath, we seek medical help. We want relief from our symptoms but we also expect the doctor to diagnose the underlying illness and treat it.
Our state and communities have lots of serious issues; high unemployment, crumbling roads and bridges, high taxes, unfunded pensions, population loss and political corruption to name a few. Are they diseases or are they symptoms of underlying illnesses?
Like the doctor whose waiting room is filled with patients needing attention, legislators scramble to put out a myriad of fires all at once. Despite their efforts, (in some cases, because of them) the underlying illnesses are often never fully diagnosed or treated.
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PENSION REFORM's $2 billion unfunded liability. A symptom or disease? If we miraculously received $2 billion, the immediate problem would be relieved, but have we achieved a cure or just alleviated the symptom?
Governments and unions, when crafting pension contracts, MUST work together for the benefit of everyone instead of their own constituencies and narrow interests as they have often done in the past.
A start might be to publish the names of those people who craft all employee contracts so that the public always knows who was actually responsible for them.
Perhaps if people knew that their prior actions would not fade with time, they might think more carefully about their legacy and future reputation.
JOB CREATION GOP director Patrick Sweeney said, “The ... issues I believe that are most pressing.... addressing the business climate in this state which means helping out small business to help create jobs”. I would respectfully disagree with this assessment. Businesses don't create jobs. They create services and/or products and if the public wants them and can afford them, businesses will hire more workers. In other words PEOPLE create jobs.
Any business that hires workers it doesn't really need because of a tax break will let them go when the tax break ceases or they'll soon be out of business. Yet another example of treating a symptom and not the disease.
EDUCATION: Rhode Island per pupil spending is higher than 45 other states but student performance is just in the middle of the nation. Symptom or disease?
“If we focused on waste, we could provide more resources to our children in the classroom” says one party spokesperson.
But we're already spending much more than most every other state but with only mediocre results.
“We need to stop treating corporate education like it is special and we need to stop giving corporate CEOs tax breaks. Reversing these two trends will be key to revitalizing Rhode Island” says an NEA director.
Nearly every conversation about education focuses on money and taxes. These are extremely important but the crucial element in a child's academic success is the attitude of parents and family. Until and unless this is addressed, financial "solutions" alone will fail to achieve the desired results. When our children grow up in a home environment that values education, nothing will hold them back.
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Changing our habit of treating symptoms instead of diseases isn't going to be easy and all sides need to listen to one another. We have to take the best ideas, regardless of whose they are, and working together, use them to do the right thing for all of the people.
These are only one person's ideas after hearing the same tune played over and over. I'm hoping we at least change the station. They did it in Tahrir Square. I hope we can do it here.
Continuing to take only aspirin for that chest pain symptom could be a killer.
Maybe it's just me.