The Public Interest

Property taxes and populist reform

Arthur P. Solomon & George E. Peterson

Winter 1973

IT doesnt take a Gallup Poll to prove that the property tax has surfaced as a central political issue of the 1970’s. The recently completed Presidential campaign established that politicians-their political antennae picking up strong signals from a rebellious electorate-have indeed gotten the message that there is widespread outrage among the citizenry at high property tax rates. As this is written, the SuprerneCourt has agreed to rule on whether the use of local property taxes to finance local educational expenditures violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by making the quality of a child’s schooling dependent upon the privately held wealth in his community. The outcome of that case is impossible to predict. But whatever the Court’s decision, the movement toward reducing the financial reliance of public school systems on local property taxes seems too potent to reverse. In California alone, five bills have been introduced in the state legislature that would sever the connection between local property values and local school expenditures.

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