General Overview of the Issues

To Have or To Have Not?

When it comes to holding a Property Tax Convention there are strong views as to whether to do so or not. The issue usually centers around whether the legislators in Trenton are really up to the task. Many say they have been elected to do so and so no convention is needed. Others wonder if they be trusted to come up with actual solutions that are in the best interest of taxpayers. They worry that they paper over the problem or will only succumb to special interest groups, those whose support is essential to their re-election.

Past is Prologue

Based on the most recent example (the 2006 budget fiasco), it would appear the clear answer is the Legislature cannot be trusted. At least to come up with real, substantial and lasting change. With the state budget, they failed to cut spending as a way of aligning income with outgo. In fact, they increased spending. They relied on tax increases to cover their lack of resolve. These actions, ultimately, will hurt the state’s economy as it drains money out of the consumer’s hand and decreases economic activity. Likewise, unlike private industry that in equally dire circumstances has been able to get unions to re-negotiate contracts, with the exception of two courageous legislators, they fail to demand anything from public employee unions.

Another example of the inability of the Legislature to do that which is in the best interest of the ordinary citizen is their failure to come up with a clear answer to the rampant abuse of eminent domain. They are unable to do as did the state of Alabama. Their legislature was not confused. Their solution was explicitly clear: “A municipality or county may not condemn property for the purposes of private retail, office, commercial, industrial or residential development; or primarily for enhancement of tax revenue.” That statement is clear, unambiguous and immune to weaseling by the courts. Instead, we have gotten mealy-mouth legislation full of wiggle room that does nothing to stem the abuses we have seen and will continue to see.

Thus, despite those who say “it’s their duty” and “that’s what they were elected to do,” there is a strong argument against entrusting Trenton with this serious task. Just witness their resistance to even allow the voters to vote on the issue. They have stalled for years and have managed again to put it off this year. They know what the outcome will be and they, and they loathe at the prospect of a convention.

What Could a Convention Do Wrong?

The possibilities for what might occur if a convention are equally disturbing. The worst thing that could happen is that the Property Tax continues to be enshrined in the Constitution as a legitimate tax. To have that happen would mean it would take another convention to undo such damage. Give politicians an inch and they will take a mile. Can anyone really believe that the property tax will not be back with a vengeance after a few short years of any so-called relief enacted today?

Delegate Packing

Others worry a convention’s delegation might be packed with the usual special interest powerhouses—teachers’ and other public employee unions, builder and trade groups, shills for elected officials, or those obsessed with spending as the only panacea and who see nothing unfair or inequitable about the Property Tax. This could be a recipe for a non-fixes and a continuation of the status quo.

The Ordinary Jane and Joe Hoping for the Unlikely

Once again, the ordinary citizen and taxpayer appears to be on the outside, hoping convention delegates will be people who are of the character of our founding fathers, people who pledged property and honor before they would act in any way other than principled. Slim chance in these days we will find such these days. Not that they do not exist. It is just that those who are of such caliber are hard to find among those who are the leaders and policy makers.

There are other reasons for and against holding a convention. The various aspects are listed or discussed in this section of the website.

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