Monday, October 31, 2005
On this day:

Yearly property reappraisals

The latest controversy (cooked up by Roy Moore and Don Siegelman) over how often to reassess property values strikes me as just plain silly. The Riley administration is phasing in a new regulation requiring property to be reappraised annually. Previously, the reappraisals had been done every 4 years. Roy Moore and Don Siegelman, both of whom are running for Governor, support returning to the old system. Lucy Baxley, never one to make a decision when she it can be avoided, first said that she would "let the people decide." Now, she wants to "let the Attorney General decide."

Alabama has the lowest property taxes in the nation - by far - so the change would have little financial impact on individual property owners. The new policy basically means that instead of getting stuck with a big jump in property taxes every four years, they will have smaller increases each year - assuming that their property increases in value each year. The state treasury stands to benefit substantially over the next four years, but after that - correct me if I'm wrong - the only way this could conceivably be labelled as a tax increase is that it uses the "time value of money" to the state's advantage. All in all, it seems fair and reasonable to me.

Nonetheless, this could become a political liability for Governor Riley, who taxpayers still remember for his support of the Amendment One debacle. So, why not come out in favor of an offsetting measure like raising the threshold for paying income taxes and indexing it to inflation? That would do a few things - it would make Alabama's tax code fairer, force the legislature to resist the urge to spend money on pork projects, and - most significantly for Riley's political career - it would show voters that the Governor has learned his lesson on taxes.