Thursday, September 20, 2007

D-Bell's Speech before Utah Legislature's Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee 9-19-07 and more

"Val E.", and friends and neighbors,

"They need to throw out the baby and the bath water and the assessors". (D-Bell) referring to the dramatic changes in the State property tax laws.

I gave the following speech and was first out of the hopper. They allowed me extra time (more than two minutes) since I was representing "a thousand people" from our Valley (and NOT just Huntsville). Ground work with the legislative staff Ron Mortensen really paid off it seems. I'm leaving it large font since my eyes are tired and others might well be after all this hubbub...

Speech before Utah Legislature’s Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee

I have often heard, “We are a Republic, not a democracy so represent those who elected you by voting the way I want you to vote.” But the truth is “We are a constitutionally limited republic based upon democratic principles.” By hosting us citizens, this committee is in compliance with the best traditions of “democratic principles”. So I thank you distinguished Senators and Representatives of this committee on behalf of Ogden Valley and my Town, Huntsville.

John Marshall* said “The power to tax involves the power to destroy.” Before “Truth in Taxation” (1986) taxing agencies could only raise property taxes no more than 6% over the previous year revenues. Ladies and gentlemen that actually sounds pretty good when I read about Utah, Salt Lake, and Davis counties seeing an average 22.6% property tax increase. And it looks really good from my Town and Valley’s perspective where we are seeing greater than 100% increases on average over last year. We feel we are being “destroyed” by disparate property taxation. I will let the petition and its comments and the silent crowds in the corridors gathered for support, speak for themselves about the hardships and agony it is causing my beloved Town and Valley. “Something is rotten in Denmark” and with the current realities of our “Truth in Taxation” laws particularly in Weber County - Ogden Valley and Huntsville Town.**

Instead of throwing rocks, today, I want to do what I can to help us solve problems. I would like you to consider these suggestions and if you are interested in further discussion, I will be pleased discuss these and many more with you.

We are reading many tax relief proposals about specific relief for “seniors”. A cap on property taxes for those over 70 or 62 years old. An increase in the “Circuit Breaker”, deferred taxes after the first $1,500 until we die, then our progeny must sell in order to pay the back taxes, etc. Ladies and gentlemen please recognize these for what they are. These are merely Band Aids for a symptom. Every sector of our great State is suffering; from young couples who can not afford the new housing costs to the AARP crowd hanging on with our fixed incomes. These Band Aids for special interests are merely buyout solutions at the expense of others – not worthy of even compassionate conservative values nor votes. We don’t want any of them. We want comprehensive property tax reform.

Our State is where California was in the late 70s, Arizona and Iowa in’79, New York in ’81, Florida and Michigan in ’94, South Carolina in ’95, Oregon and Oklahoma in 1996. Montana and Washington in ‘97 and others have joined the list since.***

We have a couple of choices the way I see it. We can overhaul worn down 22 year old (1985) “Truth in Taxation” and make it TNT on steroids. But TNT doggedly clings to the notion that “current market analysis” is “current and accurate” which we all know it is not. It is heavily based upon an inaccurate real estate marketing system (MLS) fraught with contentious assumptions and speculation. In short, it is “the disease”. We can and definitely should replace a “non current market speculation” and inflation on auto-pilot property taxation scheme with an “acquisition value” taxation system, like so many other States have done and are doing. We can and must inoculate or immunize ourselves against the “disease” and not legislate Band Aids for symptoms. For the “chicken-littles”, these States are not graveling for funding. They have found ways to trim the fat from state and local government set expenses, for example Assessor’s offices.

Paraphrasing Will Rogers,” The property tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has. Even when you make a tax appeal form out on the level, you don’t know when it’s through, if you are a crook or a martyr.”

I suggest you put together a non-partisan “Blue Ribbon” citizen group to study the economic and legislative “lessons learned”; the pros and cons of “acquisition value” property based taxation. And this “Blue Ribbon” group provide a report which focuses on Utah’s unique demographics, its unique federal, state, and privately owned land situation*** with conclusions and recommendations. And the report be made public. Only informed constituents can make informed decisions.

Secondly, only one-eighth of our Country is designated BLM (multi use) land. Utah has 66% of our land managed by the Federal Government. I would like to humbly suggest that our Utah national congressional delegation form a coalition with Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and California although lesser strapped for land they can surely feel our pain. Nevada has a very similar problem with Utah and it has a powerful political ally in Senator Harry Reid. Our situation, given a state birthrate twice that of Bangladesh, is a situation which can not continue if our grandchildren are to be allowed to live in this State. We need some our land back into the private sector. We need more political action on proposals like the Washington County Growth and Conservation Act and we need them where seventy-five percent of the population is centered along the Wasatch. Apple amendment or not, we need a “Utah Families Act”. And it should not be a boondoggle for developers, it should be a “boon” for Utah families.

We must demand our federal government “vacate” its claims on lands into the private sector, thus enabling our youth to have an affordable place to live. A “little piece of ground” on which to build now is pushing $100,000. Developers can not build even a starter home for less than $300,000. Our children earning $72,000 a year can not see their way to afford a home and start a family. Put 22% to 700% property tax increases in the blender and there is simply “no way”. Unless we collectively decide Utah should become a ski chalet and sand box for only wealthy non primary residents, we must act this session. It is already too late for many who are leaving after generations as Utahans. This is simply disgraceful.

I have at least ten other suggestions but my time is up. Again, I would be most happy to share my suggestions and ideas should you like to hear them at another time. I will go anywhere, talk to anyone, and do anything within the law to make positive changes which will allow our people (young, old, and in-between) to live in this State. And I do very much thank you each for this opportunity.

* Supreme Court Chief Justice. John Marshall was an American hero before he was Chief Justice. After service in the Continental Army, he helped ratify the Constitution and was a member of Congress; he was an internationally known diplomat and Secretary of State. Only then did he become the judge who balanced the three branches of government so that the Constitution not only survived, but grew stronger over the next 200 years.

Guess "I did good" because of applause and when I asked Representative Froerer if I embarrassed him he said "No. Not at all" with a smile. To the above speech at some point I added, I had at least 30 graduate hours of statistics. And it actually scares me a little bit that I actually understand all those statistics; like coefficient of variance and coefficient of dispersion the three assessors were taking a hour to talk about previously. And that I also know that statistics can be manipulated to suit just about any thing you want them to say. I was not impressed with a system almost too hard to even think about and which causes millions to be spent on unnecessary assessors' offices.

Representative John Dougall, was the House Chairman. And Senator Wayne Neiderhauser was the Senate Chairman. There were about twenty state congressmen/ladies sitting in a large "U" shaped arrangement of tables. We had to sit at a single table facing them. They asked that I give them a copy of my speech. I also delivered the petitions from BOTH the Ogden Valley and Huntsville to the House Chair (Rep. Dougall) personally stressing they all should read the comments and realize just how great the percentage who signed the petitions actually was for permanent residents from the Valley and Town.

Dying from thirst I left the large room, which had about 100 chairs and was filled with people, for a drink of water and ALL the press left the meeting trailing me. They were all over me but Senator Curtis Bramble left the gathering and chased me down the hallway tugging at my arm sort of shoeing them away while he spoke privately to me saying how impressed he was ( I took this as just being gracious and not really complimentary at first). Senator Bramble suggested that the "Blue Ribbon" Study group I proposed would need to have a small legislative component, because they would insist on buy-in and a link to what the report would say. He was actually trying to help me and us out.

My comment to him was "that is fine except you guys will just dredge up the same old BYU economics professor, who will go on and on about the three legged stool of taxation (sales taxes, property taxes and income taxes). And he will just insist on how we all have to pay property taxes even if we lose our jobs and are on our death beds unable to afford health insurance. I don't give a tinkers damn about that guy or his approaches to "what is best for "Shirley" or my grand kids." He seemed to be a little taken aback by my candor at first (a few nanoseconds) but quickly recovered almost suggesting that they might do better this time (than the same old BYU econ prof). He seemed to be suggesting or asking if I could participate. I replied "I would love to be involved in that study group." He is a fellow pilot and aviator, CPA background so guess we sorta hit it off somehow. He escorted me to the large gathering (about a dozen or more) of every TV news channel locally plus reporters from the AP (whom I spent extra time with), Desert Morning News, etc. And I finally met Shauna (Fuller) Francis who gave a heart felt testimony of her own later.

The Weber County Commissioners and Assessor were conspicuously absent. According to K-Bell who talked to Jim Ivie, Davis Co. Assessor, "They were not invited". This was, I take it, supposed to be a Salt Lake, Davis, Utah County shindig. But thanks to you "Val. E.", Shauna and Jeannie (Valley News), Don Porter (Standard Examiner). My main man and super "Wing-dog" Richard Sorensen (who does not get enough credit in my book) and many others the word made it up to us in the Valley. We had a significant representation with plenty of heart string tugging tales of tax abuse. And thanks to both Rex and Jenny Harris of Huntsville, who supported the concept that "it is not just about seniors but about young couples too." And Jenny suggested that second homes were a luxury and excessive, and if they just had to have so much money they should start there and leave the primary home owners alone instead of taxing them out of their homes. I thought that was a very significant contribution frankly, and one I had not fully considered. (Thank you Jenny and Rex)

Kay and I were the last to leave due to reporters lined up to talk until almost 6:30 p.m. And ole Rod Decker and his cameraman were literally outside filming through the window while I talked to the Desert Morning News reporter and a senior from Bountiful plus a young lady who organized a group of one hundred in Bountiful. I pointed at them (TV 2 cameraman and Rod Decker) to make them go away.

Our readers should know that the legislators are beginning to get the idea. Notice I said "beginning". And I feel we must keep the pressure on until they actually figure out that we (the citizens of every age demographic) demand change and not Band Aids on symptoms. It will take considerable and tough lobbying and hard work to get them to understand the "disease", in my opinion, since resistance to change is such a strong force.

Many are too comfortable with the status quo and will want expedient and immediate change of the Band Aid variety, which will do nothing but perturbate the problems in the long run.

Both Chairs asked the various groups (which I took to mean districts?) to come up with proposed solutions within the next few weeks (whenever they meet again, 17 Oct.?). And in a personal aside after the meeting officially ended, I asked Chairman Jim Dougal to have a talk with the Utah State Tax Commission. I told him about my previous request to Rep. Froerer on Sunday, 11 August, that he request an audit of the Weber County Commissioners and Assessor's office fro the State Tax Commission.
I iterated that I felt they had broken the law by not holding Truth in Taxation meetings given that TNT is not rate driven but revenue driven. He said he would check with them in case the word did not make it to them. I am still clinging to the hope (and that is all it is at this point) that the assessments will be either be declared invalid or the State Tax Commission can require an adjustment by the Weber County Assessor. They have the power to do that.

"Truth in taxation - a "revenue" driven system. Bottom line: If a taxing entity desires to budget an increased amount of advalorem revenue (exclusive of new growth) it must "go through" truth in taxation by advertisement and holding a public hearing."

I will let others who were there say their impressions as I am exhausted.

Please post this on my or this blog. And put it anywhere else so that everyone in the Valley can see it. And I really do want people to "let me have it"! To use the "comment" button and so we can have an open and honest debate. I can not be right about everything. I need our collective wisdom from all your inputs. So PLEASE don't be shy.

I got a "love note" today in the snail mail: "Read your editorial in today's paper. All I can say is "it's about time you snobs in the upper Valley started to pay your fair share of property taxes."
Citizens in Roy have carried you weight for the past three years. So shut up and pay up."
No return address or signature.

Seems like the Weber County Commissioners have some votes on the other side of the mountains and it also represents a valid sentiment we need to deal with if we are going to rid ourselves of these people in the next elections.

PS I dread seeing what they are planning to do to me personally with a reassessment. Vengeance is not beneath people who would turn a deaf ear on so many honest and sincere appeals for common decency.

And I have some lawn "For Sale -Can't afford the Taxes" signs if anyone would like to pick some up. 285 South 7200 East Huntsville Town or simply the West end of 300 South.



And more From the SL Tribune with comments by D-Bell

Group urges a yes vote on sales-tax hike for roads Northern Utah Alliance says the increase would equal $8 to $10 a month

Comments by D-Bell: “Just say “NO” to Opinion Question One.” It is “forever and incrementalism” in its worst form. Do we want the glorious things promised by these silver tongued devils. Sure we all do but the real question is do we want to pay for this or anything else for that matter to the rest of eternity? Tell them we are not stupid and we want across the board Tax Reform.

The spokesman came to the Huntsville Town Council Meeting last night with his sales pitch looking for a resolution of support. They want to be able to say “all the cities and towns” support this tax hike. It is a part of their “marketing ploy”. The mayor asked just as the silver tongued devil was leaving “Does this have an end date? The spokesperson said no.” Mayor McKay nailed it.

Folks, this is a prime example of incrementalism. We voted in 2000 for an increase for commuter rail. And it like this insanity is another tax hike WITH NO END DATE. That’s right folks it will still be there long after we are all dead and buried no matter what your age. Think about that. These smooth talking advertising types need to be shown that we are not stupid. There is virtually no limit to the amount of proposed tax increases for “good causes”. There apparently is a limit on “good judgment and common sense”. These people have mismanaged our precious resources for far too long. Vote NO more Taxes in November…PERIOD! Let’s send a very loud message to the upcoming legislative session in every way possible. We are beginning to get their attention but it is only a beginning. They are still looking at payola schemes for “special interest groups” like “seniors”. And where that may sound tempting it is both selfish and irresponsible for us “seniors” to accept such nonsense at the expense of our children and theirs.

Minor Machman

"With this initiative, we can put in place the funding options," he said. Though Question 1 will be an "opinion" question on the Nov. 6 ballot, county commissions and city councils would impose the higher tax if that's what voters decided.”


Anonymous said...

YOU GO!! I like everything you've said, not only in your speech but also in your blog. Enough of the "band-aid" offers. All we will accept is total tax reform. As things are right now, none of my kids will be able to afford to live in the Valley, and we're lucky if we're able to hold on. Our property taxes have tripled in 12 years. Where is the end of this?

Anonymous said...

I concur with your writings, and I appreciate your effort. Aside from the obvious problems with property taxes in general, I am equally frustrated with the lack of accountability. Not one person I have talked to or read their op-eds expressed any responsibility. Everyone is a messenger. After hours of conversing with the assessors,and a commissioner, I am completely baffled as to what they do and how they do it. Perfect government I suppose.

Anonymous said...

The 1000 people who signed the petition, signed a petition to protest taxes only. They did not sign on to be represented on issues such as state's rights, private property advocates etc. It is a fine line one walks, when one represents the "people".
If you go beyond the statement of the petition, you overstep what people agreed to.

Minor Machman said...

Good point. But if no one dares go beyond narrow limits of property tax issues, how do we solve problems, propose solutions, have open debate, etc. I am "not in charge" of anyone's opinions and barely my own. That is exactly why I want your thoughts, ideas, disagreements, in essence your collective wisdom. Besides.... solutions to tax issues involve an entire universe of possibilities. Let us explore them together and eventually come to a "super majority" agreement. Deal? And by all means if you choose to not want to be a part of the solution anyone can simply "opt out" or "decline" from the distribution list. No harm no foul.

Anonymous said...

I read with interest your speech and wonder why it only included a small percentage of the state. This is not just a North Utah problem but also includes the southern Utah area. I wonder how we get the news out to all of the state to get behind this property tax problem. With the housing industry in a free fall everyone knows the assessed tax is outrageous. Also it must be understood that people should not be taxed based on what someone else pays for their property. This property taxation currently going on is going to cause many lower and mid income people out of their homes just when Utah is pushing for affordable housing.

How can we get the message out to others about the need to do something constructive about the problem. The hearing you attended was not even mentioned in Southern Utah so therefore there was no input regarding our thoughts or problems.

Minor Machman said...

Another very valid point! At this stage all I can think of or do beyond all I have done is to suggest sending the information out across the State in network fashion. Meaning use you email lists of friends to friends etc. encouraging them to spread the word and/or tune into this for information and constructive commentary of their own. We will definitely need a grass roots revolt to get "acquisition value" based taxation legislated. The handout yesterday was all anti Prop 13 propaganda and came from within the legislature assisted by ???, but I do have my suspicions that the "big three real estate lobbyists" are involved. Much of it was already posted on the Ogden Valley blog and came from Rep Froerer's office. We heard from one of them yesterday and it was verbatum to what one Representative already put out in another context. So the murky water is becoming clear little at a time and the "disease" is being quarantined slowly but surely. Welcome aboard Wingman Mel with your valid concerns!

Valley said...

The above blogger Concerned about Southern Utah echoes my feelings. This is a statewide issue, not just an Ogden Valley or North Salt Lake issue.

The grass roots effort will have to work as a tidal wave across the state. The epicenter of the quake was Snowcrest Junior High on August 15th, but the wave is just starting to recharge and the Tsunami is forming.

While some try to pass this off as "our" problem (Ogden Valley), this is certainly a statewide issue of epic proportions. During the hearing at the Capital, a nice lady from Alta said their assessors have simply tacked on $1 million to the residents assessments.

If you have escaped the wrath this year, watch out for next.

Statewide Reform is needed NOW. Keep up the fight Machman!


Darryl R. Glissmeyer said...

I feel the tax rate should only be 1/2 of 1% because of the excessive rate of property values in the last 4 years. Setting the tax rate at the current high assessment won't solve any problems.

If we set the value of 1% of my current house value my taxes would increase by $1300 each year

I do agree that we need to set budget limitations on government entities. We have a budget and we live within our budget. Unless we want to take on second jobs we are limited to spending what we earn. We try very hard to do this. Sometime there are emergenices for which we have not planned and we have to borrow or use a credit card.

Government entities would have to justify their need for more monies for a specific time limit and purpose. The voters then would authorize them or not approve of those needs. They can't continue to delve into our pockets to do what they want.

The Realtors claim they are trying to keep taxes down, but yet they continue to demand 5-6% commission on a home sale. So if a house increases by %150,000 over a five year period the commission increases by $6,000 dollars. They should reduce their rates to modify the commission as home values escalate. I don't see the realtors driving a Corolla, or a Hyandai, or a 10 year old car. No they drive big or newer cars. I don't cry for them one second.

Lets get groups going in each country and pressure the counties and other entities and the legistlature to change the way taxes are assessed.

Count me in.

Minor Machman said...

Right on Darryl! Most of the people across this Country apparently agree with you and when they went to an "acquisition value" based form of property taxes..did at least a two year lookback to set a basis for market value on existing residences/homes. This means they too had been grossly assessed to death by greedy and out of control local governments and legislators. And we must "network" across the entire State for a grounds up revolt against the all too comfortable status quo in this State. We must get out there and convince people to be engaged and supportive of our efforts so that they call and write their representatives. And not accept pablum from them as well meaning or intentioned BS. We want and need action and now --- not next year or whenever they find it convienant. Namaste MM