In less than a fortnight, the much celebrated/often maligned
(depending on one’s viewpoint) Proposition 13 will mark its 33rd
anniversary. Ironically, a couple of days ago, the first-year Democratic governor
of New York engineered a deal to establish one of Proposition 13’s key
protections for taxpayers in the Empire State. Governor Andrew Cuomo cut a deal
with the legislature to cap most yearly property tax increases at 2-percent.
The New York proposal is not an exact replica of
California’s iconic property tax reform measure. But the yearly cap
acknowledges one of the important features of Proposition 13’s tax shield –
stop limitless property tax increases on defenseless taxpayers. Especially,
since property taxes often measures value of property and profits on paper only
but do not measure the taxpayer’s ability to pay.
In an echo to the Proposition 13 tax revolt, it was reported
that some seniors on fixed incomes were in jeopardy of being taxed out of their
homes under the current New York property tax system.
It is not just seniors, however, who feel the pain when
crushing property taxes are levied. The whole economy suffers.
Governor Cuomo made no secret about his concerns that taxes
are hindering his state’s economic growth. He offered an austere budget a
couple of months ago that avoided tax increases. As the New
York Times reported, the proposed property tax cap is aimed at reversing
the economic decline in many parts of the state.
It’s not that property tax burdens on New York taxpayers are
a new phenomenon. New York is a heavily taxed state and has been for some time.
I remember over twenty-five years ago traveling to New York with Howard Jarvis
to discuss property tax reform with some prominent New Yorkers. Unfortunately,
they did not have the initiative process to seek property tax relief when the
people were ignored by a recalcitrant legislature.
Apparently, the problem became severe enough and the
pressure mounted on the legislators by their constituents became strong enough
that the legislators agreed to negotiate a relief plan with the governor.
Cuomo called the tax deal a "game changer" that would
"change the trajectory of this state."
He wants to spur growth and entrepreneurial activity by
cutting the tax burden.
Perhaps the New York governor’s message can arrive across
the country in time to honor the granddaddy of property tax revolts on its
anniversary in the Golden State.