Friday, June 01, 2007

Property Taxes As Cultural Extermination

Rising property taxes can often squeeze homeowners out of neighborhoods that they have lived in for years. And they can also force small business owners to sell their businesses. Such is the case of a 117 year old family owned amusement park outside of Washington, DC. From the Washington Post via Cato-at-Liberty:

For 117 summers, generations of children have frolicked through Trimper's Rides on this beach resort town's signature boardwalk. But this Memorial Day weekend might begin the last summer they circle the antique wooden carousel, fling around the Tilt-a-Whirl and loop through the Tidal Wave roller coaster.

The Trimpers say they are considering closing the amusement park and arcade this year.

As Ocean City has exploded into a megaresort, property taxes have soared for Trimper's, which operates on the last chunk of undeveloped land on the town's three-mile boardwalk. In the past three years, family members said, their assessed property value has tripled, from $21 million to $65 million.

So the family is now torn over the possibility of having to sell the business because they just can't generate enough revenue to pay for the property taxes. I know, I know. Don't cry for them -- after all they now own land that is worth $65 million. But, if you read the rest of the story, you will hear a message that I hear over and over -- it just isn't all about the money. This is a century old family business. They take joy and pride in providing good family entertainment and good jobs.

Yet another example of public policy that is blind to our entrepreneurial economy.

(Thanks to Bill Hobbs for passing this along).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

We've been barking up the wrong tree.

We want to officially acknowledge that we have been wrong.

Well, not wrong, exactly. We once thought we'd been wrong about something but we were mistaken.

We have revised our position on PTELL (property tax extension limitation law in Illinois).

You may take out your frustrations on us here.

We are now proponents of TELs - tax and expenditures limitations in Illinois.

TELs are tax caps, and spending caps. Seen most often at the local level, sometimes mandated by state governments, TELs force local governments to put all real growth in spending and all tax and fee increases to a vote. Capping spending at the local level would be by far the most effective means of providing long term property tax relief.

This is why Illinois HB 750 does not pass the smell test. As Mike Van Winkle and Colin Hitt argued earlier this month in the State Journal-Register, "any attempt by the state to relieve property taxes through an 'abatement fund' scheme - which is what HB 750 proposes - would lead to permanent tax and spending increases at both the state and local levels, unless that 'tax abatement' is accompanied by a TEL."

Mr. Hitt says,
Without a check on local government spending, any property tax relief will instantly be capitalized by local governments in the form of higher taxes. And the abatement fund in Springfield will be raided for new spending, therefore de-funding property tax relief and forcing property taxes to rise.

Realistically, there is no way to guarantee protection of relief funds, should an abatement fund ever be established. However, there is a way...In fact there is only one way in which Springfield can deliver relief to taxpayers - through mandated local TELs.

TELs may be terrible for gamblers, but they may be property tax payers' salvation.