Saturday, February 16, 2008
On this day:

Fight over annual property reappraisals heats up again

This is much ado about very little, in my opinion:

MONTGOMERY - Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Bob Riley, backed by his legislative allies, are playing a blame game over who's responsible for counties reappraising property each year for tax purposes and who should stop it.

Democrats this week and last hurled resolutions at Riley that blamed him for ordering annual reappraisals and called on him and his aides to interpret state laws as previous governors did and order a return to property reappraisals done once every four years.

"The truth of the matter is that Governor Riley created annual reappraisals and he can stop annual reappraisals," said Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville. "For him to say that the Legislature needs to stop him from reappraising annually is like a drunk saying, `You need to close the liquor stores to keep me from drinking.'"

Riley's office this week shot back with press releases that blasted Democrats, some of whom haven't kept 2006 campaign promises to back legislation that would stop annual reappraisals.

"If the Democrats are serious, the only thing they have to do is pass that legislation," Riley said at a press conference Wednesday.

Governor Riley says that he ordered annual property reappraisals five years ago because attorneys in the state Revenue Department said that the law required it. I don't find that to be a very convincing argument. As I wrote back in August of 2006, when this was an issue in the gubernatorial race:
Alabama law says that property must be assessed at its "fair-market value," but it doesn't specify the period of time required between reappraisals. As Mrs. Baxley points out (along with Roy Moore and Don Siegelman), the law has never before been interpreted to require that the reappraisals be conducted yearly. This is clearly a judgment call for the Chief Executive to make.
In September 2006, I added:
Annual reappraisals are not required under Alabama law; Governor Riley was the first to interpret it that way. If he wants to return to four-year reappraisals, he could do so with the stroke of a pen; no change in the law is needed.
I am pretty much neutral as to whether property should be appraised annually or every four years. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Given that Alabama's property taxes are the lowest in the nation (Hallelujah!), most taxpayers wouldn't notice much of a difference either way. When their property values are rising, owners would pay a little more with more frequent reappraisals; when property values are falling, they would pay a little less. A suitable compromise might be to appraise annually, while basing the assessed value on an average over some longer period.

Whatever. This is not that big of a deal, although it's somewhat disingenuous for the Governor to blame Democrats in the legislature for an unpopular policy that he implemented and that he has the power to undo.