Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fair and Sane Property Taxes are possible

Can there be anyone left who doesn't understand that Rhode Island is in deep financial trouble? The Governor made it very plain in his State of the State address that in broad terms, we need to (1) cut expenses, (2) find added revenue, and (3) avoid raising taxes. All are reasonable goals.

How about a specific property tax plan to

1. attract business,
2. reduce the pressure on homeowners to leave because of high property taxes and
3. allow Rhode Island to adhere to its own Constitutional obligation to insure that "the burdens of the state are fairly distributed among its citizens"?

The idea? That no property owners, commercial or residential, shall receive a property tax increase greater than 4% in any one year. One might be tempted to think we already have accomplished this with the soon to be 4% cap on the local tax levy. Not so. There is no limit on the tax increase any property owner can receive as long as we require taxes based on periodic revaluations be applied to all tax payers every third year.

I am convinced that a 4% property tax limit would make our state a magnet for business to locate here, not only in their own self interest, but in the interest of their employees who might need to re-locate here. Maybe Rhode Island will no longer be the least business friendly state in the union.

Businesses would be able to take advantage of this limit as they prepare budgets instead of the very unpleasant (average) 37% tax increase received by three quarters of commercial property owners this past year long after their budgets were in place.

But it's not just about business. Homeowners whose property values have risen to the point that some must choose between paying their taxes or changing their life styles, or worse, selling their homes, would never happen again. And that assumes they could even sell their home in this awful housing market.

The R.I.G.H.T. plan will assure that every property owner will never receive more than a 4% property tax increase, that every property owner will pay his or her fair share. A new owner's initial tax bill will reflect true market value using a rate based on a revaluation, just as we do today.

At last, Rhode Island, The State of Fair and Sane Property Taxes. Sounds good.

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