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New house credits are misguided
Posted by Dave Trabert on Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You may have read about a new plan in the Wichita Eagle to incentivize new home purchases.

"With new-home construction foundering and builders buried under the weight of taxes on unsold lots, the Wichita City Council on Tuesday will look at a plan to jump-start the flagging local homebuilding industry.

"City staff is recommending adoption of a five-year property tax moratorium for the first 1,000 qualifying new houses built over two years. The city and the Wichita Area Builders Association started developing the plan in October in an attempt to reinvigorate a market that has stagnated with declining sales and tight credit."

This proposal may be a well-intended effort to help home builders and some taxpayers, but it would do so at the expense of all other businesses and taxpayers.  Unless the City of Wichita reduces spending by the amount of the tax rebates, the foregone revenue will have to be made up by everyone else.  Government doesn't just spend money when it writes checks, it also spends taxpayer money when it gives credits, rebates, loans and other types of incentives.

City Council should also recognize that rebating property taxes to buyers of certain new homes will also harm taxpayers who are trying to sell existing homes.  

If the City of Wichita wants to help (all) taxpayers, the best way it can do so is to cut spending and reduce everyone's taxes.  The City's annual financial reports show that property tax collections increased from $59.3 million in 1997 to $115.4 million in 2010.  That's a 95% tax increase.  Over the same period, Wichita's population increased 16% and inflation was up 33%.  There is no good justification for taxes to increase at nearly double the rate of population and inflation.
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