For Immediate Release Contact: Ben Kaufmann
Feb. 22, 2016 517-373-5932
Shirkey: Loophole Voids Property Tax Protections,
Must be Fixed
Current Judicial Levy Law Makes Tax Caps Meaningless
LANSING — Are property owners in Michigan truly protected by the Constitution, state law, and local charters on how high their property taxes can be raised? Do they as voters have any say in the matter? A 2015 report issued by the non-partisan Citizen Research Council makes it clear that the answer is no. State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, says it's time to reform the law that allows judges to effectively create new property taxes as the result of a lawsuit.
"There are supposed to be caps in place on how high property taxes can go, so that homeowners aren't treated like ATM machines," said Shirkey. "Just because they own property somewhere doesn't mean they should be viewed as an unlimited source of revenue by the government."
Shirkey said it does little good to have limitations on how many mills can be assessed if a judicial levy can simply bypass them. Judicial levies result when a person wins a lawsuit against the government and then petitions the court to raise property taxes as a way to make sure they are paid in a timely manner. The way the law is currently structured such a court ruling can effectively bypass constitutional protections such as Headlee, other state laws, and even locally voted in charter limitations.
"Proposal A was supposed to provide real property tax protections, and we must ensure these caps carry force and aren't just illusion," said Shirkey. "Most people would rightfully ask, how can a judge effectively create a new tax that can exceed all these caps? And why don't they as local taxpayers have an opportunity to vote on such a proposal, just as they would for other new taxes or rate increases?"
Shirkey has introduced legislation, SB 630, which would instead treat court ordered damages as a garnishment out of existing tax dollars, as opposed to just allowing for the creation of new and additional taxes. The Senator said that such an approach recognizes that property owners are not an unlimited source of income for government to solely shift their obligations to. Shirkey said the current law is also based on an assumption that if a homeowner gets their property taxes raised that they automatically have some sort of easy way to go out and get extra money.
"No homeowner has the ability to go out and force their boss to give them a raise, yet current law allows government to be compelled to force additional money out of the very people who they are supposed to be subject to," said Shirkey. "There are real repercussions to raising property taxes above a cap; we don't want to return to the days before Proposal A where elderly people owned their homes outright but had to sell them because high taxes made it impossible for them to afford staying there."
The legislation is currently scheduled for a hearing in Lansing on February 23rd.