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Archive for Sunday, November 26, 1989

MISGUIDED TAX EFFORT

November 26, 1989

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Gov. Mike Hayden's supposed effort to correct problems with the state reappraisal system is an over-reaction that is likely to confuse the issue even further.

Instead of letting the appeals process that already is in place deal with complaints about property taxes, Hayden has stepped in with a circuit-breaker of his own that probably will scramble both the collection and disbursement of property taxes in counties across the state.

Hayden's order on Wednesday that the state Department of Revenue delay the collection of first-half property taxes from Dec. 20 to Jan. 16 was not only poorly timed, but may have overstepped his powers as governor. After refusing to call a special session to let the Legislature deal with property tax relief, Hayden apparently took some of the lawmakers' authority into his own hands by unilaterally changing a tax payment date established by state statute.

Although there have been many complaints about property taxes, it is impossible to tell at this early point how serious the problem will be. That won't be known until the tax deadline, when people either must pay their taxes or file their appeals. By setting back the tax deadline, Hayden has only delayed the state's efforts to assess the problems created by reappraisal.

The Legislature now will be in session for several days before the first tax payment is due, but it will hardly be in a position to make any sweeping corrective action, because it won't have the data it needs.

There are those who think the Legislature may have acted hastily in initiating property reappraisal and reclassification in the first place, without really knowing what effect it would have on the state. Encouraging the Legislature to approve corrective measures before it really assesses the effects of the higher property taxes, would only compound that problem.

In the meantime, cities, counties and school boards across the state could see their share of the property tax levy not only delayed but effectively reduced. Later disbursement of the funds means the governmental units will receive less interest on the money they receive. Hopefully, the order won't delay payments so long that governments have to cut back their operations or, even worse, borrow funds and pay interest to cover their operating costs.

Hayden was, no doubt, under great pressure to show his concern for the state's taxpayers who were stunned by large property tax bills, and he may have seen the property tax delay as a politically smart way to accomplish that goal. His effort, however, seems not only hasty but counterproductive.

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