Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Senior Tax Cut/My Favourite Subject

County Council Chairperson Calvin Ball has introduced a bill that would enact the Senior Tax Cut task force's recommendations.

I was real happy about the task force's recommendations, until I read the asset test recommended by the task force would only:
Add an asset test to match the state property tax relief program for limited-income homeowners of any age. That would mean applicants could not have assets exceeding $200,000, not counting the person's home and up to an acre, or retirement accounts.

(emphasis supplied) In other words, you could still be quite rich and get your mansion subsidized by Howard County's taxpayers. Sweet deal, the rich get richer and its the so-called Democrats playing reverse Robinhood!

Why is it that we have enough money to subsidize million dollar homes, but not enough to take care of disabled citizens, or to pay our teachers, police officers or firefighters what they deserve?

Why its it so important that we ensure that rich seniors "can afford to" live in Howard County, but not our teachers, police officers and firefighters?

Another thing, Councilperson Watson was very worried that our rich people might be forced to sell some of their land (not their homes mind you) to qualify for this boondoggle. Why is this a problem? I hope Councilperson Watson will show as much concern for our county's poor and disabled as she does for our rich. Or at least explain her concerns better.


Anonymous said...

I think the asset test for the county would be the same as the state. Aligning the two makes it more simple for seniors.

BTW, you would be surprised how much seniors who are making very little must save to live the rest of thier days. Imagine if you have a household income of $50 K/year. With $200 K in assets, you really only have enough for four years.

Steve Fine said...

The asset threshold is too low, its will hurt those who might really be the people who who need this help. But note, it doesn't include money from social security, or RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS.

Some people have big bucks in retirement accounts, many rich people in fact.

Thats the problem with tax cuts, they tend to help the rich the most, and its hard to fashion them in a manner that distributes their benefits progressively or even just equitably. Asst caps or income caps are hard to impose because lawyers (like me) and accountants know how to get around them. But if you make them stringent enough, you end up hurting those in the middle.

Courtney Watson said...

While knocking on doors in Elkridge during the campaign, I met many long time Howard County residents who live on land they bought 50 or more years ago.

One day, I came across a senior widow in a old house that was sitting on 6 acres of land in an area zoned for 1/2 acre homes. Her income was very low, less than any of the thresholds now being discussed. She has lived in the home for 60 years. She is having trouble paying the taxes on the land. The tax relief plan would only give her a break on the curtilage (the portion of the land that sits below the house). She was therefore, contemplating selling 5 acres to a developer because she was afraid she could not keep up with the taxes on it.

Should the tax relief plan provide her relief on the entire 6 acres or only on the curtilage? Without the tax relief will she be forced to sell the remaining land to a developer who will build 8-10 houses on it and does this serve the community well?

These are the questions I was raising in the meeting in a collaborative discussion and dialog with the other Council members and the senior tax committee.

I believe we must consider the dilemma of many of our long time elderly citizens who would recoil at you calling them a "rich person", yet the appreciation in their homes and land surrounding their homes has escalated to a point where they must sell the land because they cannot keep up with the taxes.

Feel free to contact me directly if you are unsure of the meaning of my comments.

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