A good part of the Texas miracle in economic growth is the fact there is no state income tax, and you can pretty much take it to the bank that there never, ever will be.
A good portion of revenues for education and other state purposes comes from residential real estate taxes. Texas’ laws on housing are one of the reasons the Lone Star State managed to avoid the real estate bubble and crash everyone other state suffered.
That doesn’t mean pockets of HousingWire’s home state of Texas aren’t facing the same affordability challenges much of the nation faces, but in Austin it’s off their own making.
Austin is sort of like Texas’ answer to California's Berkeley in terms of politics and weirdness – and we’re proud of that – but the downside of that the average person in Austin, like Berkeley, has the same firm grasp on economics and civics that a meth addict on a bender has on sobriety.
(Well, it’s like Berkeley only with far more beautiful women, a better college, and real football, but just as many flaky public projects, hipsters, silly municipal laws, and “progressives” in fashions that were cutting edge 50 years ago.)
You probably think that’s over the top and want to me to admit it.
You’d like that wouldn’t you?
Well, tough, because I’ll see your call and raise you one homeowner in the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, in a story talking about how real estate taxes are pushing some Austinites out of their homes.
I swear I had to check three times to make sure it wasn’t from The Onion.
This is a homeowner who is being mugged by reality, and she can’t quite connect the dots. Read on.
Two nights later, a similar discussion played out in South Austin, where homeowners gathered at Grace United Methodist Church in Travis Heights to talk about what can be done to slow escalating residential tax values.
“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.”
I want you to take a good minute to re-read that and let it marinate in your head-bowl.
A generous reading says she just doesn’t see the connection between voting for more spending and having to actually pay for that spending.
A less charitable translation would be: I want all this cool stuff and I will vote for tax increases to pay for them but I don’t see why I should pay – I voted for these things, isn’t that enough effort?
This is a real-life version of "Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "Then don't do that."
“Someone needs to step in and address the big picture” she says.
I’m going out on a limb here and I’ll say she hasn’t given thought to where the tax money would come from to help her out, but she thinks this is a Good Idea™.
Problem is, all that “free money” for Good Ideas™ is how this all got started in the first place, isn’t it?