The rub

Although our circumstances in NYS are not precisely parallel, we can learn from the experience of our Massachusetts neighbors who voted in a 2.5% property tax cap 30 years ago. This article appeared in the Buffalo News recently:

Massachusetts offers less-taxing lifestyle

WEST STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. -- Something happens as the green "Welcome to New York" sign fades in the rearview mirror when you cross into Massachusetts: Taxes go down.

They are lower on clothing purchases. On gasoline, on furniture, on alcohol and on a range of goods and services. On businesses. And personal income is taxed at a lower rate.

But, most noticeably, property taxes are lower...

There's a lot of grist for the thoughtful reader's mill in this article, much of it having to do with just plain economics, which is classified with other social sciences for a reason—to a great degree, it has to do with how actual people behave in the actual world. And when something changes in that world, people's behavior changes as well, particularly for those at the margin (quite literally in this instance):

"Realtors in Massachusetts do use the taxes as a selling point," said Martha Piper, a broker associate with Stone House Properties in West Stockbridge.

"The difference in taxes is almost double between the border," said Ed Hoe, president of Kinderhook Real Estate Co., an agency based in Columbia County, N.Y., that does business on both sides of the border. Homebuyers use the tax difference to try to work better deals for houses on the New York side, he said.

"What it ends up doing is having an adverse effect on value or what people are willing to pay in New York State," he said.

Clearly, those who live and work along the border between NYS and Massachusetts respond rationally to things such as differences in tax burdens between the two states. There are those, like Barbara Lifton, who resist the notion that people behave in such a rational fashion.  But resistance is futile.

Another point:

...said Andrew Bagley, research director at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association, a nonpartisan policy group, "Yes, you can control property taxes. It just means the money has to come from somewhere else -- unless you want to eliminate services," he said.

Aye, there's the rub! You can play the fiscal shell game, capping property taxes but continuing to spend like a drunken sailor and finding other "sources of revenue" to pay for that spending, or—you cut spending.  And as American Majority says:

...cutting government spending isn’t easy.  Almost regardless of what elected officials would try to cut from their government’s budget, there would be strong opposition from those currently benefiting from that government spending....

Once a person benefits from government spending, they rely upon it and will be extremely motivated to contact their elected officials if there is even a rumor of cutting that spending.  Almost without fail, there will be stronger political pressure to not cut spending than the political pressure to reduce the spending.  Moreover, government agencies always think their budgets should grow, regardless of the effectiveness or necessity of their programs.  It takes a tremendous amount of courageous commitment to see a proposed spending cut through to be enacted into law.

Looking around the country, even Democratic Governors...are proposing budgets with significant spending cuts.  In New York State, for example, Governor Cuomo, a Democrat, announced a budget with cuts to many government programs...

Stay tuned.

There's much, much more in the Buffalo News piece.  Do read the whole thing.

On a tip from Tom