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Willisms

« Just Couldn't Resist | WILLisms.com | Quote Of The Day »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 439 -- State & Local Tax Burdens.

Texas Needs Property Tax Relief-

The Texas economy is among the better state economies in the country. It has certain natural/geographic advantages that contribute to that superior economic growth (warm weather, proximity to Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico, oil and gas in the ground, the Central Standard Time zone, etc.), but Texas has benefited far more from its pro-growth policies, including no state income tax. Indeed, Texas routinely ranks among the best state/local tax climates in the country, year after year.

The competitive advantage Texas enjoys, however, is now threatened by upwardly creeping property taxes. While Texas has not seen the same kind of real estate bubble the rest of the country has experienced over the past several years, property values have-- nonetheless-- risen dramatically since the turn of the century. Property tax rates remained roughly the same, meanwhile, which has effectively led to two consequences: 1. a major middle class tax hike; 2. an overflowing surplus in government coffers.

The Tax Foundation explains (.pdf):

Property tax collections have risen significantly for several years, as local government officials apparently did not ratchet down rates enough to prevent a surge of revenue as the value of real estate soared between 2001 and 2006.

Indeed, the national trend is not pretty (.pdf):

stateandlocaltaxesalltimehi.gif

Meanwhile, back in Texas, legislators have been hesitant to offer substantive property tax relief because many of them don't quite believe the projections of multi-billion dollar surpluses. Many of those who do believe in surplus projections simply want to spend the excess tax revenue on pet projects and a general ratcheting-up of government spending ($153 billion over the next two years).

Not only are surpluses now projected for Texas in the coming years, but those early projections almost always underestimate the amount of tax revenue that eventually comes into the Comptroller's office (.pdf):

alwaysmorerevenuethanforeca.gif

In other words, there's really no reason not to give the people of Texas some major property tax relief, immediately and permanently. Texas' high property taxes are really the one category preventing the state from having the most competitive tax structure in the entire country. And just to reiterate, lower tax burdens almost always mean stronger economies. Stronger economies produce more tax revenue. Tax relief almost always pays for itself-- eventually.

Philosophically-speaking, rapidly rising property taxes amount to a sort of soft feudalism. You can't really ever call your home your castle, as long as you are renting the space on an increasing annual basis from the government. If the role of government is to benefit society and make the world a better place (and all of that other noble stuff), how does it make any sense to punish and disincentivize such a productive and pro-social behavior (i.e. home/property ownership)?

Today is the last day of Texas' 80th regular session. It looks like there will be no serious property tax relief in this session, and-- absent a special session-- they aren't getting back together until 2009.

-------------------------------------

Previous Trivia Tidbit: More Trade, Lower Inflation.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 May 2007 09:04 AM

Comments

No state income tax?

So jealous over here.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at May 28, 2007 03:06 PM

Same problem everywhere (except California that has some proposition limiting property tax increases). Rising home values mean that property taxes can double over the last 5 years (my property value actually did double so taxes did too).

The good news is that government never has a "surplus". You have to cut tax rates first and have a deficit which forces spending cuts. If you wait until there is a surplus to try to cut tax rates, you will find that the surplus has long since disappeared due to pet projects.

Hence why every single tax cut is a good thing. If the government has money they will spend it so the way to enforce discipline is just to not give them the money in the first place. And on top of that, tax cuts generate even more economic activity so you can cut rates even more later. Damn that voodoo economics anyhow.

Posted by: Justin B at May 28, 2007 05:31 PM

Actually, Texas has a fairly mediocre economy relative to other states. To be sure, it isn't among the worst and it's not among the best.

And it's certainly a stretch--actually, a whopper--to claim Texas has a wonderful economy going back for years. For example, the economy of Texas in the mid- to late-1980s was almost third world.

As for the "magic" of no state taxes--it's telling that states such as MA and NY and CA and MD and WA--all with relatively high state taxes--have far better economies than TX.

In fact, much of what little success TX has economically is due to having a large number of low-skilled workers willing to work for low wages.

Posted by: Jadegold at May 28, 2007 06:11 PM

As for the "magic" of no state taxes--it's telling that states such as MA and NY and CA and MD and WA--all with relatively high state taxes--have far better economies than TX.

You chose to name MA, CA, and NY as great economies. Funny, but if you check the net domestic migration I wonder how you explain why Americans are fleeing these states?

http://www.willisms.com/archives/2006/05/trivia_tidbit_o_322.html

That may not display, but go to the link if it doesn't--http://www.willisms.com/archives/netdomesticmigration.gif

Net Domestic Migration for

CA 99,039
MA 42,402
NY 182,886

What is it that you know about these state's economies that the rest of us don't? That folks love paying taxes, hence why so many of them are clamoring to move there?

Posted by: Justin B at May 29, 2007 01:41 AM

Justin B. once more demonstrates why one shouldn't attempt an argument without at least a rudimentary grasp of the subject.

First, net migration doesn't really factor into a state's economy. For example, FL typically has a high rate of net migration into the state. Why? Because FL is a popular destination for retirees. Few people go to FL for jobs and careers as most of the jobs in that state are in the service industry (low-paying). OTOH, ND--a state with low unemployment and low taxes---suffers a net migration out of state (it is one of the few states to lose population) because most of its people are underemployed.

Second, the true way to measure a state's economy is via a number of factors: percentage of managerial, professional, and technical jobs, workforce education, wages, industry investment in R&D, high tech schools and universities, venture capital, etc.

Ask yourself, Justin B, why is that MA has double the per capita number of engineers and scientists that TX has? Why does MA attract more than 5 times the venture capital than TX?

Posted by: Jadegold at May 29, 2007 08:26 AM

Actually, Texas has a fairly mediocre economy relative to other states. To be sure, it isn't among the worst and it's not among the best.

Where are you getting this stuff? Texas ranked second in gross state product in 2005 behind California (overtaking NY for the 2nd spot). It did a bit worse in GDP per capita, where it was ranked 16th, but there are some anomolies ahead of it, such as some states with small populations (e.g., DC, Alaska, Delaware, Wyoming?). Plus, Texas has been improving its rank.

And it's certainly a stretch--actually, a whopper--to claim Texas has a wonderful economy going back for years.

This may be a whopper. Too bad he never made this claim.

Second, the true way to measure a state's economy is via a number of factors: percentage of managerial, professional, and technical jobs, workforce education, wages, industry investment in R&D, high tech schools and universities, venture capital, etc.

This is a load of nonsense. These are all good things, to be sure, but it seems a bit biased in favor of more innovative, technological industries (which are all fine and good and all), which hardly covers all industry.

Why does MA attract more than 5 times the venture capital than TX?

This is irrelevant. MA does better than most states. Nice way to selectively choose a state to prove whatever "point" you are trying to make. Too bad most states don't favor particularly well when compared to MA (including NY). However, Texas does favor pretty well in this department when compared nationally.

And, it should also be mentioned that MA is not really as tax-unfriendly as many conservatives like to claim. My state (Ohio) is worse, and jobs and people are leaving. And I have no doubt that this will continue until Ohio enacts more pro-growth policies. Unfortunately, we have no pro-growth politicans on either side of the aisle.

And then there's stuff like this: http://www.siteselection.com/features/2005/jul/cyber/

Posted by: Jason at May 29, 2007 10:08 AM

Jason must now sit with Justin B. on the short bus.

Texas ranked second in gross state product in 2005 behind California (overtaking NY for the 2nd spot).

GSP is meaningless in terms of economic measurement. States with the largest populations are going to measure highest in terms of GSP simply because their citizens spend more.


This is a load of nonsense. These are all good things, to be sure, but it seems a bit biased in favor of more innovative, technological industries (which are all fine and good and all), which hardly covers all industry.

When you speak of economies being good or bad, you speak of an economy's capability to sustain growth. This, by definition, means innovation and a concentration on technological progress.

Think, Jason. Is agriculture a growing industry? Is the manufacture of low-tech goods a growing industry? No. OTOH, where are the growth industies?

This is irrelevant. MA does better than most states. Nice way to selectively choose a state to prove whatever "point" you are trying to make. Too bad most states don't favor particularly well when compared to MA (including NY). However, Texas does favor pretty well in this department when compared nationally.

In terms of venture capital, NY and TX are comparable. But NY has twice the number of enginers and scientists (per capita) than TX.


Posted by: Jadegold at May 29, 2007 10:52 AM

When you speak of economies being good or bad, you speak of an economy's capability to sustain growth. This, by definition, means innovation and a concentration on technological progress.

Higher taxes don't factor into an economy's capability to sustain growth? A Net domestic outmigration doesn't factor in?

Florida, Arizona, and Nevada are the fastest growing states for more reasons than just retirees and low wage service industry jobs. Major companies such as Google, Monster, and Go Daddy as well as several large biotech companies have recently relocated to Tempe, AZ, and Austin has an absolutely massive technology industry spurred by the University of Texas. Dallas and Houston are major players in tech companies too.

Companies as well as business owners (read The Rich) are moving to lower tax states. Growth in Gross state product is a damned good measure of growth and the ability of an economy to expand. Economic expansion is the key to whether a state offers opportunities to its residents. Stagnant states are great for those folks that already have jobs and money, but growth is what allows mobility and economic opportunity. Check the gsp growth rates rankings:

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/ranks/rank28a.htm

CA 17
NY 30
MA 42

versus

AZ 1
NV 2
FL 3
ID 4
UT 5
TX 12

If CA, NY, MA, etc., have all the engineers and all the venture capital, why are they not growing as fast as the other states? Because they were already so great and wealthy to start with? Fair enough, but if you want to discuss sustainable growth and economic opportunities, the discussion here was about how tax policies impact economic growth and we can see it clearly with net domestic migration and with GSP growth rates. Folks want to live in low tax states and this is where the growth is occuring.

Think, Jason. Is agriculture a growing industry? Is the manufacture of low-tech goods a growing industry? No. OTOH, where are the growth industies?

Is that what you think of the "Red States"? That they are simply giant farms and ranches devoid of any technology companies and simply making low tech goods? Funny, but the textile industry and the low tech industries are already overseas and agriculture is bigger in California than Texas, and Nevada and Arizona production is comparable to MA and NY.

Posted by: Justin B at May 29, 2007 12:15 PM

Higher taxes don't factor into an economy's capability to sustain growth? A Net domestic outmigration doesn't factor in?

Taxes certainly do. It means a state is willing to make an investment in itself; that it's citizens are willing to pay for a better quality of life and a better future.

Again, a net domestic outmigration is meaningless since only two states (ND and SD) show an actual loss of population. If you take a look at the state which has the highest migration, by far, it's NV. Why? Because of the casino industry; the vast majority of those jobs are in the low-paying service industry.

Ask yourself if you want your kid to be a bartender or a bioengineer.

Again, states like FL and AZ are retiree-havens.

State per capita income: States like MA, VA, MD, NY, and CA are the highest. TX is in the middle of the pack.

Posted by: Jadegold at May 29, 2007 01:15 PM

Taxes certainly do. It means a state is willing to make an investment in itself; that it's citizens are willing to pay for a better quality of life and a better future.

Again, a net domestic outmigration is meaningless since only two states (ND and SD) show an actual loss of population. If you take a look at the state which has the highest migration, by far, it's NV. Why? Because of the casino industry; the vast majority of those jobs are in the low-paying service industry...

Again, states like FL and AZ are retiree-havens.

Way to sum up these state's economies. Your insight is appreciated.

Posted by: Justin B at May 29, 2007 03:24 PM