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The tax man cometh: state/local levies rising


There is no little irony in that everyone and his dog has been up in arms, and posturing by the honorables in Congress has been fever pitch, over extending/not extending the Bush era tax cuts.

Immaterial, it seems, that the average salaried taxpayer has not had any increase in federal income tax rates in years (unless increased income pushed them into a higher tax bracket) — nor would they have had under the administration’s proposal, which was summarily shot down by the Party of No, nor will they under the compromise that was finally approved for extending the Bush tax cuts for two years (adding $800 billion-plus to the national debt).

We won’t even consider the millions of people who’ve paid no income taxes at all for a year, or two, or three, because they’ve been unemployed as a result of the economy’s meltdown, and have no real prospects of finding work as corporate America sits on a mountain of cash, demands more of fewer employees, and keeps sending thousands of jobs overseas.

Yet, in the high dudgeon over nonexistent federal tax hikes for the average taxpayer, nobody has seemed particularly incensed that, nationwide, state and local taxes are increasing significantly as these governments’ budgets have been sucking wind in the economic disaster of the past three years.

Several people of whom I’ve inquired, “And how much did your property taxes increase this year?” just shrugged, “I don’t know.” Some added, “and I don’t really want to know.”

So, lemme see, it’s OK to rail about a tempest in a teapot tax non-issue at the national level, but the attitude toward burgeoning state/local taxes is an indifferent “well, like, whatever”?

In fiscal 2010, the National Governors Association reports, states increased taxes by the largest amount since 1979, while at the local level homeowners have seen county/city taxes on their property jump 20 percent or more over the past two or three years.

Everyone rants about reining in government spending at the national level, and justifiably so given the drunken sailor spending spree of the last decade, but at the local level it seems they can’t be bothered, or seem to care that once tax increases are enacted, they’re there in perpetuity. Though economic times may improve, one has a better chance of winning the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes than ever seeing local taxes adjusted downward.

In a Rasmussen Reports national poll in October, 78 percent of respondents said they thought it somewhat likely that their state or local taxes would be raised in the next year because of budget problems. In the same poll, 77 percent said they think when a state has budget problems, it is better to cut spending than raise taxes.

Yet, while irate citizens have been everywhere on TV bad-mouthing the national tax proposals, they have been conspicuously absent at their state capitols, local courthouses and city halls to demand that those governments rein in spending.

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