So I have a question for you middle class homeowners out there: What do you pay for property taxes every month?
Without looking at your mortgage or escrow statements or county tax forms, I mean.
If you’re like most Minnesotans – Americans, really – you probably don’t know. You have a rough idea, I suspect – I know I do. But unless you take a higher than average interest in taxes and home finance, it’s probably fairly ephemeral to you.
That’s intentional, of course; governments love relatively painless taxes, like payroll withholding and escrowed property tax payments. Money people perceive only abstactly is hardly money at all. It’s one of the reasons tax libertarians want to abolish payroll withholding; if people see what they’re paying, they get a lot more upset about it.
As an average, Minnesotans’ property taxes are slightly below the national average. No, really – the national average is 1.38%; Minnesotans pay an average of 1.27%; higher than some high-tax states like California (.68%), higher than some low-tax states (Texas is around 2.5%). Of course, they’re risen; being relatively “out of sight, out of mind”, local governments find them a fairly simple way to pay for their untrammeled profligacy.
But there’s a reason entrepreneurs push back the hardest on, say, payroll tax increases; because theirs are not withheld from their paychecks; they actually have to write out a check every year to the IRS for their full tax liability; it’s not an abstract thing to them at all.
And the same thing, it’s reasonable to infer, holds true with property taxes. While most of us working schnooks will squawk if our cities raise them, we barely see them, it’s the people who pay ’em directly that are going to notice them most.
But while many, many people don’t receive withholding, and pay their own taxes, there is a much smaller group that pays their own property taxes. A few people don’t escrow their taxes, of course; beyond that, there’s only on group of people who get to look at their property taxes face to face. Of course, some people – the ones that pay attention, the ones that are notautomatically happy to pay for a better city or county – notice property tax hikes (hello, Mayor Coleman). But for the vast majority of the population, it’s pretty low-pain, whether they know it or not.
It’s people who own their houses outright – especially people with big houses, sometimes plural. H0uses that cost a lot of money. And frequently were inherited.
So when the DFL bleats about Local Government Aid leading to middle class tax hikes, don’t be fooled; it’s not the middle class they’re concerned about. It’s the list of plutocrat Minnesota liberals in Kenwood and Saint Anthony Park, in North Oaks and on Summit Avenue and Orono and Wayzata.
Let’s just make sure we’re clear on that.