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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Tax Modernization –Realtors drop the idea of a statewide property tax

Ronald Mortensen, Ph.D.

Co-Founder for

July 15, 2019


Editor's note: This was originally written during the summer of 2019.  It is being posted here at this time since automatic annual school district property tax increases are now reportedly being considered as an element of state tax reform.

A powerful lobbyist for the Utah Association of Realtors told listeners of Utah’s Red Meat Radio (March 11, 2019 podcast at 15:30 in the discussion) that a new state property tax was the solution to Utah’s tax modernization efforts.  According to the lobbyist, a small state property tax that automatically brings in more revenue as home values increase would raise between $300 million and $700 million in new, stable, broad-based, discretionary revenue (that’s right, “discretionary” revenue) for the state.


On July 8, 2019, a staff member of the Realtor Association told me that the idea was dead and that realtors were not supporting a new, statewide property tax.


So why the change in position since the Realtors have apparently have drunk the Salt Lake Chamber and Kem C. Gardner Public Policy Institute Kool-Aid and believe that the state needs a new source of constantly increasing discretionary revenue to maintain the exploding growth of its budget which has gone up a whopping 146% during the past 20 years.  This is roughly three times more than the 55% increase in median household income and the 44% social security benefit increase realized by senior citizens during the past 20 years.  When population growth (45%) and social security benefit increases are combined, the state budget has still increased by 57% more than the combination of the two—46% more than combined population and median income growth.


But, why were the Realtors so willing to sacrifice grandma, who is just trying to get by on her meager fixed income?  Why did they propose giving the state an ownership interest in her home?  Could the answer be that the Realtors were afraid that the sales tax on services, which is largely the brainchild of the Enemy of the Taxpayer, Salt Lake Chamber, will impact their bottom line?  Was it because they actually support big government?  Was  it because they want to socialize Realtor costs and privatize Realtor profits?  Or is it because of all of these?


What the Realtors and other powerful business groups have in common is (1) they all support tax policies that will ensure continued exploding government growth; (2) they all support the creation of more taxes that primarily impact low and middle income Utahns while holding businesses with political power and influence largely harmless; and (3) most importantly they all want a tax structure that allows them to socialize their business costs while privatizing their profits.


Given the power of the Realtors in Utah and Utah’s Realtor friendly governor Gary Herbert, aka Available Jones, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that a statewide property tax could still be implemented.  So what can you do to ensure that a stake is driven into the heart of the Realtor proposal? 


Start by telling your local real estate agents that a new statewide property tax is a terrible idea and that it is definitely not tax modernization since it is just doing more of the same.  Then tell your legislators to demand that the state cut its spending.  After all, the state should not do better than the citizens.


Finally, while you have the Realtors and your elected officials’ attention, let them know that they are contributing to the increased interest in socialism in the United States.  After all, if socialism is good enough for the Realtors and other big business interests when they socialize their costs, then why isn’t it good enough for everyone else?

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