The Progressive’s Property Tax Comeuppance

This made the rounds of conservative Web sites, yesterday — on Instapundit, for one — but it’s too telling not to share:

“I’m at the breaking point,” said Gretchen Gardner, an Austin artist who bought a 1930s bungalow in the Bouldin neighborhood just south of downtown in 1991 and has watched her property tax bill soar to $8,500 this year.

“It’s not because I don’t like paying taxes,” said Gardner, who attended both meetings. “I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ll protest my appraisal notice, but that’s not enough. Someone needs to step in and address the big picture.”

To be fair, Ms. Gardner doesn’t appear to be incensed as much about the total taxes the city is collecting; she thinks the government should have all that it wants (and maybe more)… just not from her.  That is, it appears that, in their protest, such residents are not learning a lesson, but reinforcing their ideology.  The culprit, in the article, is that the commercial property tax rate is too low.

There are no statements from advocates on the other side, so readers should expect that the article is not the whole story.  It’s possible, for example, that the zoning restrictions or other regulations often favored by the same folks who vote for every public expenditure that comes their way have constrained the commercial market in Austin, so the prices for such properties haven’t kept pace with residential prices.

It certainly wouldn’t be unusual for progressive residents to push for government projects that simultaneously increase the cost of taxes and make the area more aesthetically pleasing, which drives up the value of residential property, while also tightening the reins on commercial property. That could create a perfect storm to wallop well-meaning residents who didn’t consider the hidden costs of their votes.

The tragedy, which is easy to find in Rhode Island, is that there are a whole lot of people who either vote against all of those projects that attract the support of Ms. Gardners or don’t vote at all and who have already been steamrolled by the mounting tax bill by the time the big spenders feel the pinch.  In local parlance, around here, those taxpayers who feel the strain before the progressives are the “one percenters” who want to “destroy the community” and “hurt children.”

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