As elected officials on the front line of the property tax issue we need to bring to the public's attention one of most important tax policy changes in recent history. In Senate Bill 1036, a companion bill to the state's budget, the Arizona Legislature is proposing to redistribute a substantial portion of the current tax burden from commercial and vacant land property owners and place it on residential property owners for voter-approved bonds and overrides.
Simply put, every homeowner will have a tax increase and nearly every business will have a tax decrease for all future bonds and overrides against the status quo. (Editors Note: SB 1036 has been approved by the Legislature and is awaiting transmittal to the governor's desk along with the rest of the budget.)
Every year, thousands of Arizonans interact with their locally elected county assessors and their staffs and struggle to understand our quarter-century-old valuation structure.
How do we look these taxpayers in the eye and explain this tax shift?
We believe a public debate needs to occur. It appears no public discussion was held on the topic at the Legislature and the ramifications are only now coming to light. It really does not matter whether you support the proposed change or you support the status quo, how are the citizens of Arizona suppose to participate in a debate that never happened?
We, the elected assessors of all counties in Arizona, both Republicans and Democrats, asked the new leadership in the Legislature to form a group to examine the property tax structure and were told to wait for an appropriate time. We are still waiting and hoping such a group will be formed soon. The entire property tax system needs to be examined in its entirety.
Transparency in government has been a buzzword used by politicians for decades. This has resonated from the President of the United States to leaders of the Arizona Legislature.
Therefore, if the Arizona Legislature believes this major tax policy change is the right thing to do, then they ought to have the courage to have an open public discussion on the subject. The citizens of this great state deserve no less.
Submitted by Keith E. Russell, MAI - Maricopa County Assessor, and the 14 other elected assessors in Arizona.