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Our view: Support for advisory referendum on taxes

Published: Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

We usually don’t support placing advisory referendums on the ballot.

They can confuse voters and, because they’re nonbinding, the outcome means little, if anything.

But if state Rep. Jack Franks’ attempt to get a statewide advisory referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot keeps on the minds of voters and politicians alike the issue of escalating property taxes and the irresponsible governmental bodies that are responsible for it, then we stand firmly behind it.

As home prices plummeted in the years after the housing bubble burst, local governments continued to raise their levies, infuriating many taxpayers. For the past few years, Franks, D-Marengo, has tried to pass legislation that would forbid governments from raising their tax levies if their overall assessed value drops from the previous year.

Since his colleagues in the General Assembly continuously blocked his efforts, Franks is back this year with House Bill 4273. It seeks to put a nonbinding advisory question on the ballot, asking voters whether they would support essentially the same legislation that Franks hasn’t been able to get approved in Springfield.

“I think we need to do this, because I’m not sure the local taxing bodies are hearing the complaints of their constituents.” Franks told Northwest Herald senior reporter Kevin Craver for a story published late last month. “The way it’s structured now, they can raise taxes with impunity, regardless of property values.”

We realize Franks faces an uphill battle again. The likelihood that state lawmakers would approve a nonbinding referendum on this topic is slim.

But we appreciate Franks’ efforts, and we hope he succeeds.

We’re certain that if the referendum does make it to the ballot, the results will be overwhelmingly one-sided. Taxpayers have had enough of continuously being asked for more. The elected officials who continue to vote to raise levies know this, too. They just choose to ignore it. And the steady loss of taxpayers and jobs to other states with more reasonable tax burdens has been ignored for far too long.

That’s why keeping this topic in the front of voters’ minds is a good thing.

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