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Continued: Response to 'Counterpoint'

  • Article by: D.J. TICE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 30, 2011 - 8:39 AM

The Voss report allows the comparison I made in the column - a comparison of property tax burdens for metro and outstate residents with comparable incomes.

And the Voss data show that people with roughly similar incomes pay sharply higher property tax in the suburbs than they do outstate. Again, check it out for yourself.

  • “[I]t makes sense that the owner of the $76,000 median-valued home in southwest Minnesota pays less than the owner of the $325,000 median-valued home in southwest suburbia.”

Why does this make sense? Does it cost less to provide a road to a $76,000 home than to a $325,000 home?

Is sending a squad car or fire truck less costly when the home being served has a smaller market value? Are kids growing up in lower valued homes less expensive to educate?

There may be some crude association between home value and some higher government costs -- more street frontage on a larger lot, say, or higher wages rates in areas with higher housing costs. But this relationship is limited.

“[H]omeowners in southwest Minnesota actually pay a higher amount of property taxes compared to the value of their home.”

Perhaps this explains why the lawmakers focus on this one comparison. (I actually used figures from quite a number of regions in my column.)

The Voss data show that the “effective tax rate” in southwest Hennepin County is higher than the rate in nine out of ten regions of greater Minnesota -- all of them except the Southwest region. Overall, the effective tax rate in the metro area is 11 percent higher than the overall rate outstate.

  • “People have a choice in where they live”

Well, exactly. People in Minnetonka have made a choice - and so have people in Mankato. People in Moundsview have made a choice - and so have people in Mountain Lake.

But if the fact that people choose where to live means that they should all mind their own business, enjoy the advantages of their chosen locations and endure the disadvantages, this whole argument can be put to rest.

Let’s let everybody make -- and pay for - their own choices. There will be few protests in the suburbs.

Frankly, though, that seems a little harsh. We’re all in this together.

But surely the fact that people choose where to live can’t mean that any inequities facing suburbanites are of no concern to anyone else, while supposed inequities facing those in Mankato and Mountain Lake should be a constant source of worry in Minnetonka and Moundsview.

  • “[P]roperty tax relief programs 'showered’ on suburbs have remained unscathed.”

It’s true that there are numerous forms of state aid to local governments and taxpayers. But the Voss report cuts through all this complexity and leaves us with a simple fact.

When all credits, refunds and intergovernmental transfers are accounted for, people with similar total incomes pay significantly higher property taxes in the metro area (including suburbs) than they do outstate, and some rural residents pay very low property taxes by any standard.

D.J. Tice is the Star Tribune's commentary editor.

 

 

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