Saturday, January 26, 2008

Contact Information & local Representative "Political" mailer

First the "quick contact" Utah House of Representatives info:

To leave messages for Representatives during regular business hours:
Telephone (801) 538-1029

To Fax Representatives (each fax must be to an individual representative)
Fax (801) 538-1908

Use the map at this site to find out who your Utah State Representative is:
Use the map at this site to find out who your Utah State Senator is:
Utah State House Roster:
Utah State Senate Roster:
Courtesy of Eagle Forum where I got it from...MM thanks Gayle!

Now gentle readers for the political mailer and some facts:

Received on 26 January and paid for by the Utah Republican Party, the local Representative says:

(1) He has placed property tax reform at the top of his list of priorities.
(2) He will fight to limit taxes, control spending at all levels of government and correct problems seen with this year's valuations.
(3) He says "Now is the time for change in our property tax laws. I invite your input as we tackle this complicated issue".

OK here goes. I will try to "tackle" this complicated taxation dummy issue. Property tax "reform" (as opposed to "relief") means changing the root cause of why our property taxes have continued to spiral upward. It means getting rid of confiscatory taxation uniquely tied to Realtor Association desires for turnover and inflated values (6% commission protection). It means recognizing that "fair market value" is male bovine excrement. Assessments based upon them are equally BS. No other tax is based on the speculative guess work of Realtors and appraisers using Realtor controlled MLS information. Simply put "fair market value" is neither "fair" nor an accurate reflection of "value". It is not now nor has it ever been.

So with tax "reform" at the top of your list what exactly have you done?
(1) You have opposed openly every attempt to have acquisition value taxation proposed.
(2) You have even posted anti Prop 13 type propaganda extensively on the Ogden Valley Forum under your blog.
(3) You have vehemently opposed Utah becoming a "Full Disclosure State" (RE 15 August Snow Crest statements). Full Disclosure is a basic prerequisite for Acquisition value (purchase price) based property taxation.

What's this? A deathbed conversion?
Suddenly your website shows you have a bill in the mill for "Modified Acquisition Value Taxation" - well its a little late don't you think? Maybe even a little disingenuous. Six months of Interim Revenue and Taxation Subcommittee study have passed and only 40 days remain in the session.

So much for the "Top of your priorities". Can't wait to see this modified acquisition value proposal! If it is like the one Senator Niederhauser was proposing (HB 54), it has absolutely nothing resembling purchase price or acquisition value reassessments with a cap for inflation. A late grandstand effort for purely political reasons is apparent. You are pretending to be in favor of acquisition value or purchase price taxation while at the same time "supporting HB 54 and the current disease of "Fair market value" and it seems very disingenuous, since they are mutually can not honestly support one while supporting the other. So which is it? We who vote are not fools.

Then you say you will "fight to limit taxes, control spending at all levels ... and correct problems seen with this year's valuation."
Cool, sounds good so show us the legislation you have proposed. Where's the beef? I do like the one where there is a penalty for claiming residential discounts fraudulently (tax evasion). Back taxes at 100% plus 10% penalty. But why five acres instead of three to qualify for the 45% discount?
You say Priority 1:
Limit increases in government spending. Your tax bill should not increase at a higher rate than normal inflation. You support legislation to limit taxing entities from raising taxes beyond the inflation rate. If greater tax increases than inflation a vote of the people would be required.

That sounds a lot like Senate Bill 29:
Chief Sponsor: Wayne L. Niederhauser
House Sponsor: John Dougall
Committee Note:
The Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee recommended this bill.
General Description:
This bill amends provisions in the Minimum School Program Act and the Property Tax
Act relating to property tax advertisement and hearing requirements.
Highlighted Provisions:
This bill:
......requires a taxing entity to submit certain property tax levies to a vote of the people prior to imposing those tax levies;

I understand SB 29 never made it out of the committee. It was pulled by Senator Niederhauser after Senator Stephenson opposed it. Based upon the notion taxing entities would just hike our taxes every year at a rate just under the inflation rate (CPI) to avoid an election. Hmm, so much for Priority 1. Will it ever resurface or pass? Doubt it.

Priority 2: (the mailer proclaims...) Decrease property tax dependence. "I am supporting legislation that would shift a portion of our local property tax burden to other revenue sources such as sales tax. Our local taxing entities should be supported by all users of government services, not just those who own property."

That is a Bill both Representative Wayne Harper and Representative John Dougall worked up separately. To date no Bill number has been assigned as the two of THEM work to combine into a single bill. But I give you personal credit for suggesting it early during the Interim sessions. And I fully agree with the concept. But it does absolutely nothing to "reform" property taxation. In fact it would, if passed provide significant "relief" to property tax owners on their November property tax bills (between up to 55% to 75% less dollars depending on how much is shifted to sales taxes). But the prospects for this Bill making it through the UEA Union influences are slim. And again it at best just shifts the school district tax burdens, it does not reduce them.

Priority 3: Eliminate spikes in valuations. In your mailing you said:
"To eliminate property tax spikes, I am supporting legislation that would require counties to complete property assessments once a year, rather than once every five years. The burden would be on the county to verify the fair market value of a property, not the taxpayer."

This really means you will vote for the work done by Representative Harper and Senator Niederhauser on HB 54. Then you say "The burden would be on the county to verify the "fair market value" of a property, not the taxpayer." I have read the Bill many times and can find no such provision in it. And after comments by our County Assessor's office senior personnel, "If that were true it would more than double or even triple the size of the assessor's offices and budgets." I have met with them several times, just as I have studied HB 54 and can find no such provision. Perhaps you would like to tell us where exactly that provision is? Is it in another version? Did I miss something?

Maybe you would care to explain to us why you again are sponsoring HB 333? Why has this bill been "stealth" titled on this second attempt? Instead of "Property Tax Deferral -senior citizens" your HB 333 is covertly titled simply "Property Tax Revisions". Where is the truth in that? You did the same last year in April. (H.B. 78, This document includes House Committee Amendments incorporated into the bill on Thu, Feb 15, 2007 at 12:19 PM
Representative Gage Froerer proposes the following substitute bill:

STATE OF UTAH Chief Sponsor: Gage Froerer

Senate Sponsor: Dennis E. Stowell
This bill modifies the Property Tax Act to amend the provisions relating to the abatement or deferral of certain property taxes.

One can not say "no one" or "never", but it is safe to say that available research says about 25 States have some form of this - Realtor Association supported legislation (Re Kohler, 19 Sept, testimony before Revenue and Taxation Interim committee). You and the Realtor Association need to understand how "most" seniors in this Country feel about "Deferred property taxes" on which 6% interest is charged.

True, when the "poor" senior dies the property, including even a mobile home, will most likely have to be sold to pay off the compounded interest and back taxes to clear the lien put on the property. And true that will increase the "fair market value" assessment, generate more property turnover and thus 6% realtor commissions. But most "poor" seniors have not chosen this option in States where it is offered. There is some evidence "poor" seniors actually self euthanize (commit suicide) before putting their heirs in such a dreadful position. I can not understand how anyone, let alone my representative could EVER support, much less continue to sponsor, such Machiavellian legislation.
Approved for Filing: A.D. Oakes 6
01-24-08 10:48 AM 6
H.B. 333
Chief Sponsor: Gage Froerer
Senate Sponsor: ____________
General Description:
This bill modifies the Property Tax Act to amend the provisions relating to the
abatement or deferral of certain property taxes.

And then there is the matter of your cosponsoring legislation (HB 296 - Approval of Subdivisions") which would make it legal for developers to go around local planning commissions like the Ogden Valley Planning Commission and directly to County commissioners if the developer could prove they have met all local ordinances. It almost passed as we recall.

Then came HB 466 which effectively does the same thing by making it easier for developers to get around local planning commissions AND county commissioners by making it ridiculously easy on developers, who are generally also Realtors, to simply create their own Towns. And the icing on the cake, developers submit a list of candidates from which the Mayor and Town Councilmen and Planning Commission are selected! What arrogance! It did pass 66 votes and one absence. So you must have voted for that "beauty" too.

I would submit Sir, that you in fact represent the Realtor Association and Developers and not me or the citizens of Ogden Valley or Weber County. If you do, you have one hell-of-a-way of proving it. Your track record shows a gross inclination toward supporting your own profession (blatant Conflicts of Interest) and the Utah Realtor Association for which you served as President.

On second thought, maybe you are, considering the number of Real Estate agents, brokers and developers in this Valley.
I guess next we will hear how much on top of the Powder Mountain situation "we" are. From Rudi's post on the Weber County Forum, "Down south on Capitol Hill, Senator Stowell has already cleared committee and is headed to the senate floor for a vote with his SB-25, which would modify the provisions of last year's flawed HB-466. If Sen Stowell's bill sails through the legislature as anticipated and becomes law prior to Powder Mountain Town's formal incorporation, Mr. Arnold's devious plan to bypass Weber County in the planning process is "toast." The race is on; and Mr. Arnold doesn't have a minute to lose. Grab your popcorn and pull up your barca-loungers, gentle readers. This one will be interesting to watch. And if you're the type who'd rather participate, rather than merely observe, Senator Stowell's contact information is available here."

And of course we know for sure you are doing everything within your power to reverse this beauty of local Ogden Valley criticality, "Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said several attempts at forming new towns are already happening under HB 466, including Powder Mountain in Weber County, and making them restart the process under new rules would be unfair. "

At least we sure hope you are "Representative" Froerer. Representing us citizens instead of your own business interests that is. You Sir, are a very big part of the problem not the solution.


Minor Machman

Friday, January 25, 2008

It is beginning to work. You are making a difference.

Huntsman backs some property tax reduction
By Lisa Riley Roche
Deseret Morning News
Published: Friday, Jan. 25, 2008 12:34 a.m. MST
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. said Thursday he was willing to consider reducing property taxes this legislative session, but the $100 million cut proposed by his fellow GOP lawmakers may be too much.
"That would sound to me to be high," Huntsman said during the taping of his monthly press conference broadcast on KUED Channel 7. But he said even though he included no tax cuts in his nearly $13 billion budget, he'd consider a cut in property taxes.

"There's a lot of talk about a property tax cut. As soon as something hits my desk, I'm willing to look at it," the governor said. "That is the only area of tax cuts that I would be interested in considering."

The governor did not mention his opposition to new tax cuts in his annual State of the State address Tuesday, something that House and Senate leaders saw as a sign he was willing to go along with their plans to give their constituents another tax cut this year.

By the end of the 2008 session, Valentine said he was confident Utahns will have been given another tax cut.

Curtis said Huntsman's willingness to consider property tax cuts is "a positive step," considering that Huntsman didn't include any tax cut in his recommended budget.
"There will still be a lot of dialog and compromises. Before we get too locked in, or entrenched to a number, we have to get our February revenue updates" for the 2008-09 budget year, Curtis said.

Friends and neighbors,

Let's be sure they hear "a lot of dialog" from all of us. Again I remind you I can not do it alone. You need to pitch in with your weekly emails to legislators and to the Governor himself.

A Bill to watch (and I feel we should support in our dialog) is Senate Bill 29. Amendments to Truth in Taxation. In essence it says in order to raise our taxes above any amount greater than inflation (Consumer Price Index) the taxing entity has to submit the proposed tax levy to a vote of "we the people" during a November election. This is at least an effort for us to have a say into whether they can continue to raise our taxes "willy-nilly" without any real controls put on "other taxing agencies".

Senator Greggory Bell (no relations too me) from Fruit Heights is vehemently opposed and is putting out a plea for lobby groups from the Utah League of Cities and Towns and the Counties to come to the Capitol to lobby against "us having a say in tax increases". Imagine that? A Senator wanting our own local government surrogates to come lobbying against us having any say in gross over taxation and a tax system without effective controls. Yes, I know TNT says by law they must advertise and hold TNT hearings. But when was the last time they did that and listened to the few who bothered to show up? Even when we show en mass, more often than not they just increase taxes anyway. This is one reason why the TNT system does not work and there of course are many others you should already have learned about by now.

"SALT LAKE CITY -- A property tax bill opposed by Davis County leaders could end up getting passed, legislators warned during a Thursday meeting.
Senate Bill 29, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, would require any taxing entity that increases its property tax rate above a certain level to put it before voters.
"I'm telling you that bill has some legs," Sen. Gregory Bell, R-Fruit Heights, said at a Davis County caucus meeting. "I'm vehemently opposed to it, but we've got to have counties, the league of cities and towns come down and talk."
Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs said the Davis County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Affairs Committee has not taken a stand on the bill, but plans to watch it carefully.
"We hope you will be cautious about anything that looks like a knee-jerk reaction," Downs said. "We know you've been contacted by a number of citizens hit hard with the property tax."
Bell said the bill has not made it to the Senate floor yet, but he expects it will and "it's going to be hard to vote against" if legislators do not hear from opponents.

Simply amazing, but then this same guy once Mayor of Farmington, and who lists himself as a Real Estate Developer, is the same guy who said in October openly that he would not support Utah becoming a full disclosure state (meaning legal requirement to disclose the price paid for a home). He went on the explain that if he were, for example, living in a half million dollar home he would not be inclined to tell the assessor. But would rather lay low hoping to be assessed at the lowered market values of his neighbors, say in the $300,000 range.

Strange honesty don't ya think? Senator Bell was saying "quite honestly" I might add, that he would prefer to lie and cheat his neighbors by effectively shifting his tax burden onto them. Plaudit for your "honesty" Senator but your ethics and character take a hit at the same time it would seem. Sorta of like the above situation where he seems to be asking the "fox" to "please" come to the Capitol and "guard the hen house".

Don't know about you but these "foxes" deserve to be sent by us "roosters and hens" to England and out of our legislature in my own opinion. Maybe you will share it with me when elections roll around.



Wednesday, January 23, 2008

If you live in Tooele County, Box Elder, Cache, and some of the other Counties here are your legislators and their email addresses.

With the 2008 general session of the state legislature just kicking off, here's a guide to who represents whom in Tooele County:

State House of Representatives

District 1 includes Box Elder County, outside of Brigham City, and Tooele County, outside of Tooele Valley. The district includes the cities of Grantsville, Stockton, Rush Valley, Vernon, Wendover and Ophir. District 1 is represented by Ronda Menlove, R-Garland. Her official state e-mail address is

District 21 includes Tooele Valley, except Grantsville. The city of Tooele and the communities of Erda, Stansbury Park, PIne Canyon, and Lake Point are all part of District 21, which is represented by Jim Gowans, D-Tooele. His official state e-mail address is

State Senate

District 12 includes part of West Valley City and northwestern Salt Lake County and sweeps up and over the Oquirrh mountains to include Stansbury Park. The district is represented by Brent Goodfellow, D-West Valley City. His official state e-mail address is

District 13 includes part of Utah County including the communities of Lehi, Payson, Santaquin, Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain. It also includes the southeastern corner of Tooele County including the communities of Ophir, Vernon, and Faust. The district is represented by Mark Madsen, R-Lehi. His official state e-mail address is

District 17 includes a part of western Cache County, Box Elder County, and parts of Tooele County including Tooele City north of approximately 600 North, Erda, Pine Canyon, Lake Point and Grantsville. The district is represented by Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City. His official state e-mail address is

District 24 includes Juab, Piute, Sanpete, Sevier, and Wayne Counties, along with parts of Tooele County including Tooele City south of 600 North, Rush Valley, Stockton and western Tooele County including Wendover. The district is represented by Darin Peterson, R-Nephi. His official state e-mail address is

The 24th and 17th districts split Tooele City roughly in half.

Please remember to write your weekly email to your Senators and Representatives asking for significant property tax relief and reform during this session. To write the Governor, you can go to the state website: then click on "constituent affairs", then click on "Contact the Governor" fill in your information and type in your concerns in the box provided.

Coalition monitors report little progress during today's legislative session. Much confusion exists, with several coalition members lobbying key legislators for acquisition value taxation. Bills are mostly not "ready for prime time" yet and therefore not ready for debate in either house. The annual computer assisted reassessment Bill HB54 sponsor, Rep Harper, says it is not intended to deter legislation on acquisition value and the computer systems (of County choice) will be available in either event whether current market value or acquisition value based property taxation. Senator Valentine's legislative research group confirmed what we already know...that a constitutional wording change will be required if they pass acquisition value.

Other Coalition initiatives include a Pledge which is being drafted which will be used to try to nail down specific legislator's intentions regarding property tax relief and significant property tax reform this session. Our "Sandy man" Larry Engel is working on it and plans to use the Young Republican's to distribute the pledges among the legislators very soon.

Another initiative is a Taxpayer's Contract with the legislature which is also being drafted and will be presented also in a news conferance or press release. The list of taxpayer demands will hopefully clearly communicate what we as citizens and taxpayers want from our legislators. I anticipate (and in fact have provided about 15 "demands" so far in draft form. For example "We demand the right to have legislation passed which makes it a felony to give or receive gifts of any value. We demand the toughest laws available in the Country to protect us from further illegal immigration. The right to fair taxation without incrementalism nor "forever taxation" (tax law without an end date). Etc. When and if we as a coalition can agree on exactly what we want of our legislators I plan to present it to the Governor and/or the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House.

If property tax reform is not taken up within a reasonable time this session we may well have to mobilize and march on the Capitol enmass. But I think we should give them the opportunity to deliver more than lip service first before we do that and therefore exhaust every reasonable means of working within the system first.

Then if you read the preamble to the Constitution the way I read it may well be time to remind them..."that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." (Thomas Jefferson, partial from the Constitution)

This says to me we have a responsibility to elect new representation if they continue to accept bribes and practice graft and corruption. If they continue taking "campaign" contributions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars even not during election years, exhibiting unethical and immoral lapses in judgment, disregarding blatant conflict of interest etc. Passing laws like HB 466 without a single opposition vote, for example, yet with a Senator sponsor who had received the majority of his campaign contributions from the realtor - developer lobby.

It is our responsibility to effect change first by communicating exactly what we want from and expect of our legislators. If they do not respond, they do not represent us, simply elect those who will support what we want. "Cynicism is a poor man's wisdom" someone once said. Let us not have it said by our children we were "poor" stewards of our constitutional responsibilities and civic duties. Cynicism is not enough. As Henry David Thoreau reminds us, "We must be men of conscience and act."


Minor Machman

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Daily Herald does it again in this OPED piece. It is a must read.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Should property tax hikes be limited?
Daily Herald
If the people were asked directly about property taxes, we're willing to bet that they'd tell their representatives to limit increases by law, just as California did in 1978 with Proposition 13.

Plenty of Utah homeowners experienced "sticker shock" last year when they opened their property assessments or tax bills. Their reaction has just as much to do with philosophical questions of fairness and government power as they do about dollars.

California's Proposition 13 required that "the maximum amount of any ad valorem tax on real property shall not exceed 1 percent of the full cash value of such property." Its passage resulted in a cap on property tax rates in the state, reducing them by an average of 57 percent.

In addition to lowering property taxes, the initiative also contained language requiring a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses for future increases in all state tax rates or amounts of revenue collected, including income tax rates.

The measure received an enormous amount of publicity throughout the United States, and its passage presaged a "taxpayer revolt" that contributed to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Thirteen similar measures passed that year alone.

Behind Proposition 13 was the sentiment that older people should not be priced out of their homes through ever-rising taxes. It has been called a "third rail" (meaning untouchable) in California politics, and it is politically risky for any politician to attempt to change it.

We wonder whether Utahns would support a similar measure. Our guess is that they would in large numbers.

Utah, for all the rapid changes of recent years, cherishes its frontier spirit. People moved out here, whether on a wagon in 1847 or in an SUV in 2007, to control their own destinies. But no person can do much about many of the factors that affect the value of his home, or the resulting tax penalty imposed by government.

A home is an investment, the largest that most people will ever make. Yet, unlike virtually any other investment -- whether gold or euros or securities or stocks -- the government can tax your property higher year after year based on an alleged "market value" that is influenced by commercial real estate professionals. Never mind that the real estate industry benefits by increasing values.

With other investments, you pay taxes after a transaction. You can hold the investment without tax until the day you sell. You don't pay more because somebody says it's "worth more" while you're holding it, just because you were wise enough to buy when the price was low.

When you make a profit on your investment, then you pay tax. And that is fair. But ongoing property taxes are fundamentally unfair in this respect. They go up even though no transaction has taken place.

It was different in past centuries. Property owners were the wealthy, and property tax was a way of generating revenue in a mainly agricultural economy. Today, it's hard to make a case that most homeowners are wealthy. If anything, a home is a money pit. The last thing most of us need is a mid-stream tax hike.

Most taxes are based on a transaction. Not so with a house you bought 20 years ago and raised your family in. You pay the government more money just because. You pay just because you made an investment and the government wants a piece of it. You pay just because you were wise enough to look to your retirement future.

If you sell your home for a big profit, it's fair that the investment income be taxed. But under the current system, the government wants your money in advance. And if your income doesn't rise with rising taxes, you can literally be taxed out of your home.

Some suggest that if sales tax arrived in annual bills, to be paid in lump sums, property tax would quickly slide to third place on the list of detested burdens. But this makes our point: Each instance of tax is based on a specific transaction, and everybody can do the math. There's no dispute about the value of a sales transaction.

By contrast, an increase in property tax is based on nothing but opinion. It's like paying sales tax based on what the government thinks you might spend on goods and services, or like laying a tax on the stock certificates in your bank's safety deposit box.

In this view, sales taxes are intrinsically fair. Property tax is intrinsically unfair -- an increasing burden placed upon people for no other reason than the fact that they hold an investment over time.

Some Utah lawmakers are working up bills to cut property tax or ease its impact. Sen. Wayne Niederhouser, R-Sandy, has proposed that government must hold an election to authorize any tax increase over the rate of inflation. Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, has proposed that assessors in the 10 most populous counties use a computer-assisted mass-appraisal system to update values.

But these proposals do not address the fundamental fact that a home is no different from any other long-term investment. They would maintain the property tax just because that's what we've done for decades, not because it's logical.

The Citizens' Coalition for Tax Fairness advocates a system based on purchase price in a transaction, not some amorphous market value. The group, made up of several Utah grass-roots organizations, would put the brakes on assessment increases.

We think it's time for a new look at property taxes. Perhaps they are an outmoded concept. The state Legislature should refer this matter to the people for advice. It doesn't hurt to ask, does it?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Prop 13: Protecting Taxpayers and Politicians

Greetings friends and neighbors,

This article was written a few years back by a California legislator. Funny thing about Proposition 13 which was an experiment begun some thirty (30) years ago now. What with all the people who have moved here from California and settled in Ogden Valley to Saint George I have yet to meet one who did not love it. Whether a public servant, businessman, or homeowner...they all have nothing but good things to say about it while they lived in California.

The only ones in these parts that seem to want to kill it are Realtor Association members for the most part. And a few who are concerned unnecessarily about how it might effect public services. The author (and I apologize for not providing his name but I lost it) puts those concerns to rest fairly well. Also those who actually live among us now and who worked in public services areas of California have nothing but good things to report about how it affected their lives.

Detractors locally like to "preach" about the "Three legged stool; income, sales and property taxes". And of the three, how property taxes are the most "stable" and "dependable" since they must be paid no matter one's "ability to pay".

My argument is just how "stable" is an onerous property tax which increases beyond a homeowner's ability to pay? What happens when the word gets out that Utah has oppressive property taxation? How "stable" are Realtor driven market valuations hence property taxes which cause people to leave Utah, or not move to Utah as retirees on fixed incomes? Young people study cost of living indexes before accepting a job in any State as part of their salary packages to determine whether or not to live in Utah. When they see Utah is always ranked in the top ten (10) highest taxed States in the seniors they turn away. How does that help the Realtor Association?

Seems like very bad tax policy and business to me. If you agree (or disagree) let me know please.


Minor Machman

Proposition 13 is frequently held up by many as the root of all evil in California. It is the consistent target of vilification by government agencies that wish they could get their hands on more of your tax dollars. Proposition 13 was passed to protect property owners from abrupt and excessive run-up in property tax bills and has likely saved countless retiree homeowners on fixed incomes from financial ruin. Yet, the understated, but not unintended, golden nugget in Proposition 13 is that it has also saved politicians and government officials from themselves by limiting their ability to spend wildly.

In my nine years of working with governmental budgets I have come to recognize that those of us in the public sector charged with making budgets could make our budget struggles much less unpleasant if we were to practice a smoothing of spending over time. I admonished my colleagues at the local level that we should forecast revenues over an extended period of time, establish an average revenue level, and then limit annual spending to that average. Revenues in any year above the average should be held back as a reserve. Then, when revenues inevitably fall, we would have enough resources to avoid painful levels of cuts. Cutting programs can be one of the most difficult and trying things for an elected official to do. It makes good sense to use this method of budgeting. Unfortunately, I discovered that good sense doesn't prevail over the pressure to spend on any level of government. I have learned that an unstated principle of public budgeting seems to be that spending will expand to the level of tax revenues that we see before us in the current year only.

In one of his recent Sacramento Bee columns, Dan Weintraub pointed out that Proposition 13 has actually acted as a revenue stabilizer and in essence forced the very smoothing of spending over time that I longed for as a local elected official. Mr. Weintraub called it a ''surprise'' benefit of Proposition 13 that shouldn't be overlooked, and I couldn't agree more.

With Proposition 13 and the caps on property taxes that it provides, revenues to government agencies are naturally leveled out and smoothed over time. This mechanism provides a much more consistent revenue stream for local government in contrast to what the State sees with wild year to year fluctuations in income tax revenues. By capping property taxes at levels that reflect the home's original value, local governments can better anticipate their property tax revenues and moderate their spending.

Of course, it is that statement about a home's original value that always leads to further attacks on Proposition 13. As Mr. Weintraub points out in the same article, there is ''…an element of Proposition 13 that has come under attack, because two homes next to each other and worth the same amount can be taxed at wildly different levels . . .'' Proposition 13 detractors have long said that these different levels of taxation are unfair.

As Mr. Weintraub correctly noted in his article, ''A home that sells for $300,000 one year and is worth $320,000 the next will be assessed at only $306,000, reflecting the 2 percent cap in annual increases. After a few years of big growth of the kind California saw in the early years of this decade, such a home might be worth $500,000, but its assessed value would still be close to the original purchase price. The owner is sitting on a mountain of untaxed equity.''

True, but the good sense of Proposition 13 is that this ''mountain of untaxed equity'' has absolutely nothing to do with the homeowner's ability to pay a tax bill. Those who attack this impact of Prop 13 as unfair are forgetting the tragic unfairness of pre-Prop 13 circumstances where senior citizens were taxed right out of their constantly increasing value homes while their incomes remained stagnant.

At least two other states (this article is dated having been written several years ago as most other States have also gone to acquisition value or purchase price based reassessment taxation which are "Prop 13 based".), Florida and Texas are currently looking at implementing Proposition 13-like reforms as abusive local governments have taken advantage of unusually escalating property values. Beleaguered taxpayers have taken their grievances about these abuses to their state government and their legislatures are wisely looking into the issue.

So as Proposition 13 continues to be a target for attack by those in government who believe that it handcuffs them from raising new revenues to pay for new programs, politicians and government should instead be thankful. Proposition 13 has provided consistent, predictable revenue streams that have protected politicians from themselves and their wild spending ways, while living up to its intended purpose of protecting taxpayers from abusive tax increases.

If you have gotten this far I have a "test" question for you. What is "tax capitalization" a how does it relate to acquistion value taxation? MM

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Like I said, "Huntsman not keen on tax cuts"

Greetings friends and neighbors,

I my quest to keep you up to snuff on important property tax issues the following article is repeated from today's Tribune. But first a personal note and caution for you to consider.

After meeting with three new coalition members for three hours, I had an interesting conversation with the Weber Assessor's office (Doug Larson) today. There are still some appeals which have not been completed. Mine, for example, is in the "short pile". Turns out that in the 1990's someone "who no longer works there" incorrectly put a card in my file saying I have a full finished basement (1,340 square feet). In truth we have a 110 sq. ft. unfinished "fruit room" you can not even stand up in.

I tell you good folks this because whether you appealed your property taxes or not you need to carefully consider going downtown and insisting you review the data the Weber County (or Davis or any other County) Assessor has in their data base on your property. In my personal case the Weber County Assessor has been taxing me on erroneous data which basically doubles our home's size since the 1990s.

Will I receive any back taxes or credits for a gross error made by the Assessor's office which doubles the size of my home? Not likely. Will you? Also not likely. So I highly recommend two things; (a) do your own audit of what they are taxing you on. Make no assumptions that the data they have is correct. (b) actively join in the opposition to House Bill (HB 54) which forces all counties to use computer assisted mass reassessments, which only hide and magnify gross errors in assessor's data bases.

Huntsman not keen on tax cuts
But will consider property tax reform
By Sheena McFarlandThe Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 01/16/2008
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. won't consider anything resembling an income tax cut, and is cautious about any tax relief in light of a faltering economy. However, property tax relief is the one area he says he will "look at with an open mind." "I've never felt that we ought to have tax cuts as our priorities this year. I'm not going to look seriously at anything beyond a property tax relief package . . . the other areas I'm just not interested in," he said Wednesday in an interview. "We started this year with record tax cuts, but now we're entering a period of economic uncertainty. Let's see how these tax reform measures play out this year and see how that leaves our state." A tax law went into effect Jan. 1 that creates a modified "flat" income tax system in the state and will cut taxes an estimated $110 million. House leadership this year is looking at a tax-cut package of about $88 million with $15 million going toward a tax credit for those paying for their health insurance with post-tax dollars. The rest will go to property tax relief. "We don't have any income tax cuts planned," said Speaker Greg Curtis. Currently, legislators have filed 26 bills addressing the property or income tax. But Curtis also recognizes that projected revenues were too high, and that means sticking to funding basic needs. He compares this session to a Christmas when money is tight. "This is a socks and underwear session. We'll still be able to buy some things, but it's going to be the necessities," Curtis said. Senate budget chairman Lyle Hillyard said Senate leadership is leaning toward a property tax cut as its top priority. "We've done income and sales tax in the past, and we know people are very sensitive about [property taxes]," he said. "But a big thing is seeing what comes in February. If revenues have dropped off at all, that will make us nervous about what tax cuts we'll make." Senate President John Valentine says in addition to property tax cuts, senators are looking at two secondary areas. One involves giving a tax break to corporations who do out-of-state sales and the other would attempt to better equalize state funding for school buildings. Not knowing what will happen in February is one reason why Huntsman wants to see different funding for various areas, including education, human services and transportation instead of doling out tax cuts. "People are feeling the pain of property value increases," he said. "But it's prudent first to watch how this year plays out and how it affects the economy and secondly to move on to our next priorities."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Send the Governor an email/letter once a week from every member of your family.

Let’s send emails to our Governor:


Subject: Your Utah budget priorities, Where is property tax reform?

Governor Huntsman,

Please accept my gratitude for your public service. You and your wonderful family are wholesome representatives for our State. And I know how your duties as Governor take you away from family, and the sacrifices you are making on our behalf. So thank you very much for your service Governor Huntsman.

But I wonder if you are in contact with the financial realities of every day citizen’s hardships living in Utah. I say that because of your wealthy background. And the fact that your recently announced budget priorities said nothing about the onerous and oppressive taxation we little people are enduring.

I know the new single rate or flat rate income/education tax is supposed to help. But we are ranked about sixth in the Nation for having the highest total taxes, even when half the State’s revenue comes from the Federal Government (and we also pay those Federal Taxes). However; property taxation has become so oppressive we are being forced (or…. to re-budget for my young family eliminating some items from our diet, school activities which charge fees for my children, and drop our health care plan among other cutbacks - just to afford the property taxes. {Tell your own story or a story about someone you know, like your mother or dad or grandparents trying to hang on praying for property tax reform and relief}) to consider cutting back on heating my small home, or stop taking some of my medications, and cutting back on buying food in order to pay the property taxes on my home. I wonder if you understand that it does not matter if I/we are ill, have massive hospital bills or have lost employment that we must pay our property tax bills all at once or suffer a 10.25% penalty fee and then have another 12% interest charged on top. And we have no idea what our property taxes are going to be from one year to the next. My property taxes went from ____ last year to _____ this year and we could not possibly budget for that amount of increase. So this last year was a lean Christmas and we continue to sacrifice, we think unfairly, for property taxes which seem way out of control and inaccurate.

The Statewide average property tax increase has been widely reported to be more than 22%, yet the rate of inflation and cost of living has increased only a little more than 2%. Why can’t we have our property assessments based on what we paid for our home with only inflation increases each year? Most other States have “purchase price” or “acquisition value” plus inflation property taxation with a cap.

Please make significant property tax reform a priority for our legislature to get us away from this old and unfair property tax law situation. We honor you and your family for your sacrifice on our behalf. Please honor our request for significant property taxation reform/relief.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sample email/letter with contact information. "Just do it" and get used to it. Heat's on...

Jowers said, "When citizens get involved in a legislative campaign or an issue, they are always more powerful than a special interest." He added, "But that's true only if they are engaged. If not, then special interests are always there to fill the power vacuum."

Please engage friends and neighbors. Send emails and/or letters to all these legislators. You will be reminded and asked to do this every week to stay engaged.

(Cache, Salt Lake, Utah, Counties contact information will be in the next post)

(1) Weber, Summit, Morgan, Senator Allen Christensen
1233 E. 2250 N. North Ogden, UT 84414 email:

(2) Davis, Weber (Ogden/South Weber), Senator Jon J. Greiner 4232 Fern Drive, Ogden UT 84403 email:

(3) Weber County Senator Scott Jenkins 4385 W. 1975 N., Plain City, UT 84404 email:

(4) Weber County (Roy) Rep. D. Gregg Buxton 4162 S. 2340 W. Roy, UT 84067 email:

(5) Weber County (Washington Terrace) Rep. Brad L. Dee 111 W. 5600 S. Ogden, UT 84405 email:

(6) Weber County (Ogden) Rep. Neil A. Hansen 1031 Capitol St. Ogden, UT 84401 email:

(7) Weber County (North Ogden) Rep. Glenn A. Donnelson 874 E. 2100 N. N. Ogden, UT 84414 email:

(8) Weber County (Ogden) Rep. LaWanna Shurtliff 5085 Aztec Dr. Ogden, UT 84403 email:

(9) Davis County (Fruit Heights) Rep. Julie Fisher 865 S. Orchard Ct. Fruit Heights, UT 84037 email:

(10) Davis County (Layton) Rep. Kevin Garn 2206 E. Summerwood Dr. Layton, UT 84040 email:

(11) Central Davis County Senator Gregory Bell 744 Eagle Way, Fruit Heights, UT 84037 email:

(12) Davis County (Bountiful, Centerville) Senator Dan R. Eastman 968 Canyon Crest Dr. Bountiful, UT 84010 email:

(13) Davis County Senator Sheldon Killpack 3406 S. 875 W. Syracuse, UT 84075 email:

(14) Davis (Kaysville) Rep. Douglas C. Aagard 1055 W. 150 S. Kaysville, UT 84037 email:

(15) Davis County Rep. Sheryl L. Allen 620 Larsen Dr. Bountiful, UT 84010 email:

(16) Davis County Rep. Roger E. Barrus 322 E. 500 N. Centerville, UT 844014 email:

(17) Davis/Salt Lake County (Bountiful, North Salt Lake) Rep. Paul A Neuenschwander 4216 S. Foothill circle, Bountiful, UT 84010 Email:

(18) Davis County Rep. Curtis Oda P.O. Box 824 Clearfield, UT 84089 email:

(19) Davis County (Clinton, Sunset, West Point, Syracuse) Rep. Paul Ray PO Box 977 Clearfield, UT 84089 email:

Sample only. Copy and paste this one or compose your own, but the main thing is to “Just do it!” And we all need to do this on a weekly basis over the next three months. If there are several members within the household send an email or letter from each member old enough to vote. The idea is to flood our legislators, and our Governor, with emails and letters from everyone (reference the last post). “Put the heat on” in other words. I will try for all I am worth to make it easy for you to do, but this is something you have to do…for yourselves and for the future. I will continue to write samples or examples for you to consider as suggestions only. I am NOT trying to tell any of you what to say or how to ask legislators to vote. Just trying to be helpful.

Subject: Tax Relief, Property Tax Reform, Transparency, VA Hospital, School tax to Sales Taxes.

Senator or Representative __________,

(D-Bell Note: Please do not take offense by thinking I expect you to agree with what I have said in any of the examples I offer. Please speak your own mind, exercise your own “free agency” and ask for what you feel is right and fair.)

First, thank you for your public service. As you know, property taxes have increased almost exponentially since some of your colleagues have discovered Utah ranks 34th in the Nation. Yet we are the sixth highest taxed citizens in the Nation when total taxation is considered. I therefore would like you to vote for tax relief in the form of a meaningful (1) tax cuts in the short term (actual dollar tax decreases) and (2) significant property tax reform (acquisition value reassessments with inflation caps).

I feel many taxing entities are out of control and request your vote to harness spending and increase accountability by supporting the (3) “Transparency Bill”.

Your support and vote for a (4)Veterans Hospital in Weber County using State matching or substitute funding until Federal funds arrive is also important to me and my family.

And as your constituent I request your vote for a (5) bill which lowers my property taxes by moving school district funding into sales taxes. I support education funding, especially teacher salary increases and want school funding to be protected and held harmless. I support and would appreciate your vote for a bill which will guarantee school district funding using sales taxes, with a backup using property taxes should a short fall occur.

Finally, (6) I do not support HB54 which will only add expense and protuberate an already unfair, complex and chaotic ”Truth in Taxation” process.


D.W. Bell
285 S. 7200 E.
Huntsville, UT 84317

Don't like this one (above) write your own. Tell them about your personal property tax situation and how you feel about it. Let all our legislators and the governor know what is bothering you and what you would like them to focus on and fix this session. It is the way our government is supposed to function. With our legislators working for us and not some lobby group or "special interests".



Monday, January 14, 2008

One week til Legislative Session, time to get to work!

“…Because if people don’t turn up the heat, if legislators aren’t hearing from constituents, then it is a problem. We assume if we don’t hear it is a problem then it must be generally OK. So legislators have to be contacted that there is a problem. And it can’t be just one person or two people it’s got to be regular or constant. “

Hola Friends and Neighbors,

It is time. Time to go to work. The legislative session begins in a week. In conversation with trusted legislators sympathetic to the cause for significant property tax reform I suggest we begin a campaign of emails and letters to our legislators and even our detached - seemingly out of touch Governor.

Maybe you are tired of listening to me. So listen to one of our most effective legislators as he describes an effective strategy for all of us to lobby for property tax reform:

“If D-Bell sent a blanket email to 75 House members. That is not as meaningful as if a constituent in each of the Representatives’ District sends them the same email. You send an email to your local Representatives and Senators. Someone sends me an email. It says the same thing, but it’s from somebody I know. And what makes it even more effective is if it is from somebody you know that is sending it to you. So it is just not something out of the blue, a constituent, it’s a constituent you know that is maybe been involved in the political process. For example, one of your precinct chairs or one of your delegates sent you the message then that becomes even more powerful. Because these are people you know and work with on a very regular basis, rather than maybe you see them once a year or have never seen them or met them in you life.”

D-Bell: “So up close and personal is better.”

Yes, up close and personal is better because these are people that are voting for you. It’s not just some crank in the State. It is THIS is somebody who actually votes for me. So that is why I tell folks when I go talk to them, when you send an email; The Subject line needs to be specific. “Property Tax Reform issue”, “Request for Property Taxation Relief”, versus “Taxes”, or “Complaint”. The body of the email should be concise and to the point. One paragraph if possible and a recommendations are always appreciated. The tone should be respectfully authoritative. And the signature line should include your name and address as well as your phone number and email contact information.

That way (we) can see exactly where you live. Because when I get 500 emails in a day during the session, I’m not going to worry about answering emails from who knows where in the State. But if I’ve got one from a constituent, I’m going to try and answer it. And I am going to try and pay particular attention to what their concern is because it is a concern coming from my District.

And the level of threat thing depends. A couple of years ago we had the bank - credit union thing. And when people would do the threat thing, “You’ll never get elected again.” Some Representatives cower from that fear. But others become obstinate and if they threaten me that way, I am going to vote the other way just to show’em.

So when it comes to “heat” on the legislature everyone is a little bit different. But turning up the “heat” is important. Because if people don’t turn up the heat, if legislators aren’t hearing from constituents, then it is a problem. We assume if we don’t hear it is a problem then it must be generally OK. So legislators have to be contacted that there is a problem. And it can’t be just one person or two people it’s got to be regular or constant. There has got to be where somehow we get the media talking about. But even if the media doesn’t talk about it if each Representative heard from a thousand constituents during the session…problems about property taxes. They would take notice.

If they only get one letter (or email) from D-Bell and never heard from anyone else…some are going to be sensitive and say we got a problem but others will say all I got was one email. It must not be a problem.

D-Bell: “That’s where I run into problems locally. The people in this Valley… everyone wants someone else to do their work for them. Every one wants to feel like if I tell this one person something and he is raising Hell about it. Then I have fulfilled my civic obligation. And I have had them apologize and say we have become complacent or apathetic because you’re doing such an excellent job for us and so on. But the down side is I am the only one doing it, like you say. I went to the Weber County Budget hearing in December and out of 227,000 people in Weber County I was the only one there.”

And what did the Commissioners say? Only one guy has a problem with the budget.

D-Bell: “Well I graciously thanked the Commissioners for having budgeted a whole $86,000 for direct expenditures on two-thirds the County land mass. I was being facetious and cynical of course…”

This is one of my concerns. Back in September when we had the hearing on Property Taxes. We had what 125 people show up. It is 125 people out of 2.5 Million. OK, 125 and then an extra 100 letters or so, and in best case 200 people got engaged on it. I mean that is not even 1%.

D-Bell: "I gave you two petitions signed by more than a thousand people. But you are right, had we known more we could have stuffed the corridors with people. We actually were trying to just fill the small room."

So that’s why I have some colleagues that say, “Yeah, there are a few people that got affected but it’ll work itself out. We don’t have a problem.” And currently I am hearing too many Representatives saying “Well, we don’t have a problem.”

D-Bell: “That's denial. Maybe I am reading the tea leaves wrong…I need to give them some credit. But from my world people are seething or simmering. There is a simmering discontent. We still have not heard, for example, from our appeals of our property. We don’t know what our property taxes really are. We do not, I don’t know. And many who have been notified either can not pay or have filed an appeal to the first appeal.”

I didn't know that. Interesting.
And what you have is... I think guys like ________ are very frustrated with the Davis County; they went 10 yrs. without reappraising. Totally contrary to what the law is and trying to figure out.

D-Bell: “That also is not totally true. The Assessor did reappraise, but said, “Well I’m not going to tell people their taxes are going up this much. I’m going to cut the appraisals by the ten percent. Because, the State Tax Commission allows them (the assessors) to assess within 10% of current market value. Otherwise they (State Tax Commission) would step in issuing corrective orders and such. So the guy was actually doing something. He was just “low balling” I guess you could say.”

Legislators are agitated about that issue. We had a similar situation in my District a few years back. It was hit very hard and there was outrage but only from that one area. No one else was complaining –they were the only ones in the media.

And this is my concern when they say well let’s do a “carve out” for retired citizens. OK what you did was; the people that were most agitated you all of a sudden took them out. You gave them a break, you placated them. And guess what? That working class guy, he is still working in the warehouse, he doesn’t have time to go to the hearing. But the retired citizen who has time and who doesn’t care says “Hey, I don’t have high taxes anymore (or they are greatly reduced) so it is a non issue for me.”

D-Bell: “Yes, and they (the retired community) just shoved it off onto the working guy and his family, who is already over burdened.”

Yeah, and neutered the ones who are going to be the most outspoken. And that’s why I think we all ought to be in one boat rather than just doing little “carve outs”.

D-Bell: “Yes, that is what I was trying to say back on 19 September. I understand all of that stuff.”

If you will shoot me an email about the blogs out there, so I can read what is going on.
We have a common cause and hope we can continue work together.

Help with instructions about exactly who to contact and how next post.


D-Bell, aka minor machman

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Series: Post #5 Realtor Association, last of the series.

Jowers said, "When citizens get involved in a legislative campaign or an issue, they are always more powerful than a special interest." He added, "But that's true only if they are engaged. If not, then special interests are always there to fill the power vacuum."


Percentage of Utah legislators receiving perfect scores from the Utah
Association of Realtors

'99: 6%
'00: 8%
'01: 24%
'02: 31%
'03: 56%
'04: 53%
'05: 60%

Source: Utah Association of Realtors


Realtors have lost a few minor property-rights battles recently, over
bills requiring that sellers disclose whether a registered sex
offender lives nearby or whether their properties once housed meth
labs. A number of states also have found property-transfer taxes a
relatively painless way to raise money during recent budget crunches.
"That's certainly one of those hidden taxes that legislators don't
have to talk about too loudly," says Susan Dioury, of the Minnesota
Association of Realtors, "so that's an easy one to raise."

But Realtors are still mostly getting their way, whether in bills
that affect them directly or broader fights over growth restrictions
and other land-use policies. They are a strikingly coherent
organization, considering that theirs is a profession of small groups
of practitioners locked in constant competition with one another.

Most Realtor lobbying is handled by volunteer members and state
association staff, rather than hired contract lobbyists. They often
have prominent figures on staff, such as former bar association
presidents or ex-members of state real estate commissions. But even
when it comes time for the non-professionals to lobby, Realtors are
well-equipped to exploit the relationships they form with politicians
and regulators.
They tend to be natural salesmen accustomed to
persuasion and negotiating transactions between third parties--very
good, Mansell says, at bringing parties together, whether it's buyers and sellers, or members of the legislature. "House or Senate," he
says, "it's a negotiating system."

Realtors in fact, often get much of the negotiating work out of the
way well before a policy idea reaches the legislative stage. In many
states, the crucial decisions are made by the real estate commission,
and you'd be hard-pressed to find a real estate commission in any
state that is not dominated by people who are active in the business.
In some states, the presence of real estate agents on the commission
is required by statute. Often, the individuals serving as
commissioners have been recommended to the governor by the state
Association of Realtors.

In a sense, Realtors are both the buyers and sellers when it comes to
formulating the policies that govern their profession
In Louisiana,
two of the three state commissioners also serve as members of the
state Realtors association's committee on legislation. Things aren't
always that cozy, but it's normal for commissioners to work hand in
glove with the Realtors' lobby in setting and proposing policy. And
once a bill is drafted by the state commission, it's seldom challenged
by legislators--or anyone else, since there's rarely an effective,
organized counterweight to the Realtors on issues concerning their

Occasionally, a seemingly compliant state commission throws the
industry an unexpected curve. The Idaho commission did that this year
when it refused to sign off on a minimum-services bill after hearing
from U.S. Department of Justice representatives that it might be a
restraint of trade. The commission asked the state Realtors
association if it could live with a version that would allow consumers
to waive the minimum-service requirements if they so desired. The
association said no, and so the bill was never introduced.
But that may not be the end of the story in Idaho. There is
speculation that the Idaho Association of Realtors will add a question
on minimum service legislation to the list of questions it asks
prospective commissioners when it comes time for new appointments--and
that those who fail to register enthusiasm for the concept are
unlikely to be chosen.

It may not happen, but the fact that many in Idaho expect it points
up that Realtors are in fact scrupulous about monitoring the people
who make decisions that affect their business--and try to have
friendly people making those decisions whenever possible. "When you
get too many in there, it can be a challenge from a PR standpoint,"
says Kyler, of his association's hefty representation in the Utah
legislature. "You don't want it to look like you're taking over the
body, and we're not."

For the Realtors' opponents, however, it sometimes does look like they've managed to take over, or at least certainly influence, every important legislature and regulating body. "It's an industry where rules are being set up and governed by its own biggest players," complains Pat Lashinsky, of the discount brokerage ZipRealty, which is based in Emeryville, California, just across the bay from San Francisco--a market where the median house price now tops $660,000.

With commissions on Bay Area home sales exceeding $40,000, Lashinsky
thinks that consumers will inevitably embrace different business models that can save them thousands of dollars.

But Realtors have proven themselves not just vigilant but adaptable
in answering every challenge to their way of doing business. To the
extent that they are able to preserve their advantages over the long
haul, they will have their friends in state government largely to
thank. "If they can't fix the specific prices, they can at least
control the terms on which their competitors are doing bus
iness," says
Hawker. "So far, the lobbying has been a pretty effective way of doing

Friends and Neighbors,

If you have read all five of the series you just have to be wondering what on earth are we doing allowing these people to manipulate our laws to protect their 6% commissions. I have introduced you to the three main lobbyists, their short biographies and experience and let you read from a nationally recognized "Governing Magazine" feature article. You have been exposed to what Mr. Mansell has to say and especially what the CEO and money man, Chris Kyle has to say.

My sources tell me that this group picks opportunities to put in place Real Estate Brokers and Developers who are avid members of the Utah Realtor Association. They pay about $35 a month dues which gets them a month periodical full of ethical violations and who got caught doing what and why, and sanctions on various members, which number some 10,000 members in Utah.

When they choose to run a candidate, they pay for everything. And of course provide legal assistance and basically run the entire campaign for their chosen lapdogs. Should the slightest indication a candidate might not be sympathetic to their "business interests" they pull the plug. And worse, they put up money against any candidate who will not play along.

They would definitely put big money up against me, for example, since I make no secret of my personal disdain for their ethics (or the lack thereof) and the way these "people" operate.

I am told this politcal group has more than a million dollars in their PAC war chest and they are not afraid to use it in an election year. So stand by.

But then all the money in the universe has no effect on the legitimate will of the people.

Jowers said, "When citizens get involved in a legislative campaign or an issue, they are always more powerful than a special interest." He added, "But that's true only if they are engaged. If not, then special interests are always there to fill the power vacuum."
And ya know what? Jowers was right.



Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Series: Post #4 Realtor Association, "Group of 40 analyze bills weekly for potential effect on industry."

Realtors are careful to mix assertions of clout with arguments about sound public policy. They invariably say they are representing not just their own industry but the property rights of homeowners in general, and that those are a fundamental tenet of American democracy. "I don't have to be that skilled as an advocate," Kyler says. "I don't want to sound cocky, but I think the primary reason we win is we're right."

But just in case a legislator might stray from the path of common sense and try to interfere with the inalienable right to pursue property, Kyler has a group of forty (40) Realtors who meet each week to analyze bills in the legislature and their potential effect on the industry. The association backs up that analysis with a lot of money. During the 2004 election cycle, the Utah Association of Realtors donated $226,930 to state-level political candidates and causes--a figure matched almost dollar for dollar by individual Realtors and other people in the business. That made real estate the largest single donor to Utah politicians that year, except for political parties and self-financing candidates. Nationwide, the real estate industry contributed $69.5 million to state-level campaigns in 2004, making it the fifth-most-generous sector overall. "It's safe to say that when it comes to coordinated giving to political candidates, real estate interests are some of the most focused in the country," says Edwin Bender, of theNational Institute on Money in State Politics. Bill Malkasian, president of the Wisconsin Association of Realtors, brags openly about the impact his group has on state politics and policy. Malkasian's "little tool kit," as he calls it, includes not just the usual hefty campaign contributions but a nonprofit association called the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance, which conducts polling and keeps the broader public engaged in issues of property rights. The most recent effort came this spring, after the state Departmentof Natural Resources decided it wanted to regulate large piers that may cause pollution, especially the so-called big "party platforms."Most piers would have been exempt, but Realtors viewed the new rules as a threat anyway. "We went directly to the public and fought them big time," Malkasian says--and sure enough, legislators voted to block the agency from moving forward with its plan. There are huge incentives for licensed agents to sign on with the trade group, starting with the listings they gain access to by joining. Realtors sign up with their local, state and national associations simultaneously.

The national association now claims close to 1.3 million members--an increase of about 75 percent over the past decade. The massive influx of new members in the face of soaring home prices is one reason why average Realtor income actually hasn't gone up much lately. Most of the ground rules that govern Realtors today have been in place since the 1920s. It was then that the group registered the brand name of Realtor, which only members can use, and created the familiar 6 percent commission fee structure and the all-important multiple-listing systems. (Because of discounters and other factors, the average commission has shrunk to 5.1 percent in recent years--which is still enough, given rising property prices, to translate into more than $60 billion per year worth of fees nationwide.)

For decades, Realtors tried to keep the multiple listings--and commissions--all to themselves. As a condition for joining the association and getting access to the multiple listings, real estate agents had to agree to a set of terms or code of ethics, a provision of which inevitably would be an agreement to charge a commission of at least a certain amount. "These were just naked price-fixing agreements," says Hawker, the business professor. But they were eventually brought to a halt by a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that found Realtors enjoyed no special exclusion from federal antitrust laws. If overt price-fixing has gone out of style, however, Realtors still have many tricks up their sleeve to bring mavericks back into line. Real estate agents who try to foster new business models threatening the commission structure have generally been brought to heel through boycotts and other pressure tactics. Court outcomes in cases alleging such behavior have been mixed, but complaints from the 1970s would sound familiar to the discount brokers of 2006 trying to use theInternet as a means of challenging Realtors' power.

After the New Mexico Real Estate Commission approved minimum service regulations in February, "I had to turn down business immediately,"says Donald Blunkett, a discount broker with operations in several Western states. "Long term, I may have to exit New Mexico as a market. Prices are going to be definitely higher."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Series: Post #3 Meet THE MAN! The PAC Purse Strings and much more...

Christopher J. Kyler

Education: Chris Kyler received his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Brigham Young University, and his Juris Doctor degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law School. In law school Chris was designated a national member of the Order of Barristers for achieving excellence in courtroom advocacy. He is licensed to practice law in Utah and California. He is a member of the American Bar Association and the American Society of Association Executives.

Experience: Chris is not only a full-time lobbyist, but is also serving as General Counsel and CEO for the Utah Association of Realtors. In the Firm's government relations practice, Chris is responsible for creating and managing the legislative advocacy efforts of his clients, including legislative drafting, campaigning, fund-raising, PAC money disbursement, and lobbying. He is also a frequent speaker in meetings across Utah where he helps business leaders and their staff members better understand the legal and political.

Mr. Kyler is the head of the Utah Realtor Association. Just about every thing you will learn in the following article about Utah politics as it relates to the Real Estate business interests goes through him. He is the CEO and General Counsel and one apparently ultimately responsible and you will hear from him often in the feature article from the Governing Magazine/June 2006, which graciously consented to my reproduction of this excellent bit of copyrighted journalism, entitled:
Utah Association of Realtors

The real estate lobby is under serious competitive challenge, but no pressure group is better at bending legislatures to its will.

By Alan Greenblatt

During a hot market, it sometimes seems as if half the people you meet are thinking about getting a real estate license. But what do Realtors dream about doing next? If they live in Utah, they may be dreaming of a career in politics. Chris Kyler, CEO of the Utah Association of Realtors, sounds quite animated as he counts off the many members of his organization who hold high office in the state. "I've got people who are on county commissions, mayors, state senators," Kyler says."Our lieutenant governor was president of our state association about 20 years ago. Our people are involved in the parties, too. We've got precinct chairs and vice chairs and county delegates throughout the state." No fewer than 22 people who make their living in real estate also serve as members of the Utah legislature. Not surprisingly, Utah has some of the toughest real estate laws in the country--protecting both private property rights and the business interests of Realtors. When the Realtors hope to get favorable legislation passed, they know there is one legislator in particular who will lend a friendly ear. Al Mansell was president of the Utah Senate until he dropped his leadership role to serve a one-year term as president of the National Association of Realtors. Still in the Senate, Mansell has since sponsored bills avidly sought by his profession. The most important may have been a new law that clamps down on discount brokers who have undercut the larger commissions collected by Realtors. "Did I feel a conflict of interest?" Mansell says. "No, what I felt was a strong push by many of my colleagues."

Mansell's colleagues in the real estate business are capable of providing that strong push in every state in the nation. Realtors have their fights in Congress and at the local level, but much of their lobbying energy is spent in state capitals, which is where they are primarily regulated. Utah might have the most Realtors serving as legislators, but there are Realtors in virtually every legislative district in the country--and they make their presence felt.

There are other interest groups that can match them for geographic spread, such as teachers' unions and restaurant associations. And many other occupations are well represented in the corridors of legislative power. No one finds it unusual when a university administrator, for instance, chairs a committee that oversees her primary employer. But few lobbies can match the Realtors for numbers, financial wherewithal--and effectiveness. Whenever an issue involves the transfer of property--and that extends to fights over property taxes, roads, schools, utilities, water policy and a whole host of other questions--Realtors come out in force. "You're talking about guys who are on a first-name basis with a lot of legislators," says John Tuccillo, an industry consultant and former chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. "You're talking about access, and once you have access, you can make your point." Because their industry is now under more competitive pressure than at any time in recent history, Realtors have stepped up their game.

Utah is one of 10 states that have approved new laws or regulations over the past two years that require real estate agents to provide a minimum level of services. More states are likely to follow suit. These minimum-service bills pose a direct challenge to the discount brokers who have sprung up in large part on the Internet. The newcomers present a challenge to Realtors' traditional ability to charge 6 percent commissions on the sale of every home--now worth upwards of $10,000 per sale in most of the country. Web giants such as Google and have joined the parade of sites that are listing homes, leading some to predict that consumers will increasingly turn to the lower-cost options, making real estate agents obsolete, the way travel agents have become in the era of Internet airline bookings. "Their very profession is about to join the endangered species list," the authors of the popular book"Freakonomics" claimed recently in the New York Times.

But it might be too soon to bet on that scenario, and the reasons are the involvement of Realtors in the political process and the protections they have already crafted to stave off the threat. The many state rules governing their profession, including the newly created ones such as minimum-service requirements, serve as serious barriers to entry, helping Realtors preserve their control over the market.

In the opinion of critics, the rules mean both higher fees for Realtors and higher prices for houses. For Robert Lande, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law who is associated with the American Antitrust Institute, the new minimum-service laws are merely the latest phase in a permanent campaign by Realtors to keep a stranglehold on property transactions. "They've got a sweet deal,"Lande says. "You fix the rules of the game to insulate each member from hard competition." Most worrisome from the Realtors' point of view, their critics now include the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. Both of these federal agencies accuse Realtors of engaging in anti competitive practices, and have lobbied against the new state laws. "At a fundamental level, they reduce consumer choice," says John Read, a litigation section chief in Justice's antitrust division."There are a number of consumers who would like to save some money by not having to pay for mandated services that they're being forced to buy under these bills."

PICKETT'S LAW There's no disputing that discount brokers are out to change the rules of the game. Many of them will list a house for as little as $500 on a multiple-listing service (MLS)--the database of homes for sale that is the life's blood of the residential real estate industry. Often, that is all the discount broker will do. The homeowner is responsible for hosting the open house, fielding and negotiating bids, and handling all the paperwork. Some discounters will answer questions or perform a limited menu of services for set fees. But Realtors claim they still leave consumers, who don't understand just how complicated the process of selling property really is, exposed and unprotected. Like Mansell in Utah and several of the other sponsors of minimum-service bills, Texas state Representative Joe Pickett has worked in real estate. He says he was inspired to write his bill by his own experience and frustration in dealing with discounters who don't meet their customers' expectations. "It's been kind of a pet peeve of mine," Pickett says. "If you say you're a licensed real estate agent in the state of Texas, there ought to be a minimal number of things that you do." All Pickett's law does, he says, is protect unwary consumers. But the concern of the federal agencies is that state legislation, once passed, has the effect of shielding Realtors from antitrust complaints. "[Federal] antitrust law does not overrule state law or state agency regulation in most cases," says Norman Hawker, a business professor at Western Michigan University, who organized a symposium on real estate practices for the American Antitrust Institute last fall. "So you're seeing lobbying by Realtors to get laws in place that would probably be illegal if they were private agreements between them, like the full-service laws." The Department of Justice settled an antitrust case involving commission rebates with the Kentucky Real Estate Commission last year, but still has a suit pending against the National Association of Realtors, challenging the listing rules that Justice says hamper competition. The Realtors changed their rules in answer to the suit, but Justice then filed an amended complaint. It's unusual, though not unheard of, for federal agencies to involve themselves in the legislative debate over state laws. What is truly rare is for Realtors to face such heavy-hitting opposition. They have been engaged for years in a multimillion-dollar fight in Congress with mortgage bankers, who are seeking their own piece of the real estate action. But at the state level, there's almost never an adversary of much heft standing in opposition to Realtors. Ask lobbyists for the industry to name a time they failed to get their way and the only sound you hear may be a long pause. Chris Kyler has been with the Utah Association of Realtors during the state's last seven legislative sessions. "Of the bills that we've opposed since 1999, we've been able to defeat 100 percent of them," he says. "We either defeated all of them or we amended them so that it made our position neutral." The group's rate of success on bills it actively supported isn't quite as high, Kyler says, but it's still "well over 90 percent for seven years running."

Mach man says:

Sort of makes you pause to wonder just who is running our State, for what purpose and what can we do about it? Does it not?....

Stay tuned for more. I want you all to read and come to know what these people have been doing to any early discussions or preliminary proposals or draft bills in committee. I want you to wake up to the realities of the past ten years and why we have come to this sad overly taxed end.

Be patient. I will continue with this series and then toss in a few other informational goodies.


D-Bell, aka Minor Mach man

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Series: Post #2 Meet the middleman for the Realtor Association Lobby.

Bryan R. Kohler
Bryan received his Political Science degree from the University of Utah. He then earned his MBA and Juris Doctorate degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
He has served as CEO for the Salt Lake Board of Realtors since August 2002. Bryan's duties include serving as Executive Vice President, directing the 14 person professional staff and managing the budget. He also directs the board's Governmental Affair Committee that is responsible for developing cooperative relationships with local and state officials. Prior to his appointment with the Salt Lake Board, Bryan was a practicing attorney with Gallian, Westfall, Wilcox & Welker in St. George Utah. While with this law firm he specialized in government affairs and employment laws. He is a member of the Utah State Bar Association.

Mr. Kohler is the middle man of the trio of Realtor Association Lobbyists and apparently as the Executive Vice President is responsible for directing the Board of Realtors Governmental Affairs Committee which develops “cooperative relationships” with local and state officials. These “cooperative relationships” with local and state officials are at the core of the problems for us taxpayers.

This symbiosis between business interests and government, this teaming and “relationship” has been and continues to be very bad news for taxpayers. For it is truly a sad situation when business and government team up in their own best interests.

Mr. Kohler appeared briefly before the 19 September 2007 Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee and gave the following statement:
(direct transcript from audio of committee meeting)
“I am Bryan Kohler. I am a Sandy resident. While I’m not here today to tell you the property tax system is completely broken. But the Realtors have always said that the property tax system should be fair, consistent, evenly applied and that there be truth in taxation. As a watchdog group for homeowners, the Realtors have everything to lose if properties become unaffordable or if difficult to transfer. And that’s why we fought for years to keep property taxes low. We appreciate what this committee is taking on and we’ll support any and all legislation that keeps the property tax burden low for its citizens.

No one should be forced out of a home that they own. Especially because of taxes and we also understand that the elderly are particularly at risk. And that’s been said today so I won’t go into that. Obviously the market determines the value of a home and the value affects the taxes that are collected. And certain areas get popular and burdens shift as its been said today. Obviously everyone knows this, but the taxes collected don’t go up or down, it just shifts depending on what areas might be hot, for example. Homeowners often received that value and they do even though they are taxed on it, they are receiving a value. But they often can’t afford the value that is being I guess being foisted upon them. This is why Realtors have consistently spoken against tying the tax rate to the mill rate or tying the rate to inflation. We’ve fought those measures when they have been brought up here because they would escalate property taxes for citizens. We don’t want that.

Is the system completely broken? We don’t believe that’s the case. We believe that there are some options here that we can use. And ah, I just. I’m thinking particularly of what we do with Greenbelt. We value that area and we basically say we will forbear; we will defer taxes on Greenbelt property until transfer. And maybe that’s a solution that we could employ especially with groups like the elderly. Defer the taxes until they transfer it, so they don’t get taxed out of their homes. Cause we certainly don’t want that. Thanks for your time, committee.”

Dated Feb. 15, 2007 another Real Estate Broker and Developer, Representative Gage Froerer, proposed the following substitute bill:




The bill goes on to allow property taxes for applicants over 70 years of age to be deferred and bear an interest rate equal to the lesser of; 6%; or the federal-funds rate target as established by the Federal Open Markets Committee…per year.

Friends and Neighbors,

You may think this is a good deal. But I don’t. About twenty-five states have some form of this type property tax deferral system. And from what data is available most seniors would rather self euthanize than take advantage of this type of “relief”. They would rather commit suicide than burden their beloved family with such objectionable tax “reform”. The AARP does not support such legislation nor is it generally widely accepted as a viable and humane alternative.

Tax deferral proposed by the Realtor Association is clearly another scheme to virtually force the turnover of properties, at significantly increased prices, due to compounded 6% interest penalties on back taxes, which increase prices, which increase commissions, which flow into Realtors’ pockets when we die.

Ironically, suggesting using “Greenbelt” as a procedural precedent draws attention to an area which has remained virtually unchanged since the 1960s. (I hope anyone who owns and actually farms Greenbelt property within the intend and letter of the law will understand I am NOT referring to you or yours.) “Greenbelt” has been manipulated into property tax evasive safe harbors used primarily by people who own land more than five acres (5.25 acres if a primary residence rests on it). Developers carve out five acre plots to take advantage of the massive loophole. By law, the property is supposed to be engaged in some form of crop production. But with only one State Tax Commission agent to enforce this, it is commonly abused. That agent told me recently they must send a prior notice (warning notice) to the landowner announcing they are coming to do an “audit”. And frequently by the time the agent arrives there is a cow or two on the otherwise barren property.

Want specifics? Want an example? An Ogden Valley developer hires a local farmer to cut and bale his weeds and field grasses for the sake of the greenbelt tax rate. The farmer “harvests” the “crop”, bales it,…and then throws it away. This is but one of many tax evasion schemes used by property owners and developers.

To add insult to injury, our legislature passed a law not long ago which entitled these same non farming or “tax-evader farmers” to keep “pleasure horses” on their Greenbelt properties and qualify as “crop production activity”. I did not know we ate horse meat, but if the taxes continue it may be the only thing left we can afford. Allowing "pleasure horses" to qualify land for greenbelt is purely "botique legislation" designed for special interests without any consideration for "the little people" or majority of taxpayer constituents.

Those who hold FAA or Greenbelt acreage are paying about fifteen pennies (15 cents) an acre. When sold or “transferred” the new owner must pay five years back taxes at the “taxable market value”.

This of course is a huge boondoggle for the larger non-farmer land owners. They can hold onto large tracts of land for twenty or thirty years, paying $100 a year on 700 acres valued eventually into the millions of dollars on purely investment properties, for example. And when sold/transferred the new owner pays only the last five years at much higher taxable market value. The cost to the community of having the other fifteen or twenty-five years taxed at only eight to fifteen cents an acre at the FAA "taxable market value", even though the "current market value" is into the millions, ultimately is paid by you and me. We squeeze and sacrifice to pay exhorbitant property taxes while these "sleeze bags" skate by for pennies an acre using a major loophole and tax evasion scheme.

In the old days out West, chickens would be plucked, tar melted and a fence rail located for a "Tar and Feather Party" and these folks would have a free ride out of Town. Today they hide among us quietly not appealing their property taxes for fear of jeopardizing their "private good deals" with the Tax Commission and County Assessors rendereed into "toothless dogs" by bad legislation and laws.

Every County Assessor and State Tax Commission person I have spoken with agrees that THIS (Greenbelt abuse and tax evasion) is the worst tax travesty in our State, when it comes to the “shifts” of tax burdens onto the back of us homeowners.

Folks this is one of the ways our legislators have allowed the Realtor/Developer lobby community to “shift” tax evaders and cheats significant tax burden onto you and me. And this is what we must change among many other things wrong with our current tax system. Stay tuned there is more….much more.


Minor Machman