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Home / Articles / News / Opinion /  Zane's World
Transfer Tax
If opponents of the transfer tax put the money they spent on mailings into affordable housing, we wouldn’t need a tax.

Zane's World

Taxing Times

March 3, 2009, 12:00 am

Santa Fe is a bubble.

It’s a common refrain, right? We’re disconnected from reality here in the capital city because the sun is always shining and running into a Republican is only a little more likely than seeing a zebra grazing on the Plaza grass (grass that is so precious, we’re not allowed to touch it anyway). We’re a progressive city with liberal values and a good quality of life. The water is rumored to be inordinately blessed with a generous lithium content that makes us prefer art to heavy industry, bicycles to ATVs and chardonnay to shotguns.

But New Mexico at large can sure be a bitter little pill. It’s hard to maintain a calm bubble of progressiveness when a bunch of hick, small-brained legislators can cowardly kill the domestic partnership bill because, apparently, they can’t see its correlation to other civil rights battles. They also fail to see how doing so is akin to condoning torture and slavery, as well as ignoring due process and the many horrific plagues of abuse that have been so frequent in our supposedly freedom-loving country. A very special
chickenshit award goes to state Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, for reversing his vote when he saw which way the wind was blowing. All the popular kids will like you now, Carlos—way to rally for the wrong side of history.

I’m unconvinced, however, that Santa Fe is the bastioned bubble so many claim it is. Take, for example, the swarm of giant, expensive, irregular-sized junk mail that has consumed my postbox like a virus in recent weeks—all of it in opposition to the real estate transfer tax. I haven’t seen this much big-monied bull poured into mailing campaigns since Walmart wooed us to build its extra-sized Supercenter of cheap crap and crimes against labor out on the Southside.

Opponents of the tax have circulated a list of 14 “talking points” designed to make a miniscule tax on sales of Santa Fe homes that are purchased for more than $750,000 sound like a reckless, crazy, stupid thing to do. Their list is at least as spurious, dubious, false and ill-conceived as the bumbling consortium of lies that were put forward in the state Senate in order to strike down domestic partnership legislation.

Because the whole point of a transfer tax is to help fund affordable housing, opponents suggest that it is tantamount to giving “free” housing to those who haven’t earned it. But there’s nothing free about participating in an affordable housing program and the converse of their argument is that a wealthy society that has enabled riches is apparently unaccountable to participate in the continued betterment of said society. Fiddle, in other words, while Rome burns.

Real estate agents and others who are against the transfer tax claim the bill will effectively raise the cost of homes. Well, effectively raise the cost of homes that only wealthy people are buying anyway. Under the tax, a home sold for $850,000 would be taxed $1,000, or 0.12 percent of the sales price. I wonder how many buyers will notice this tax when put next to high closing fees and a $51,000 realty commission?

Ah, suddenly the motivation for real estate agents to oppose this tax is clear: They’re afraid they might have to eat it and walk away with a measly $50,000.

Hey, realty is not an easy business and it would be disingenuous to argue realtors are living large while the rest of us suffer, but if any industry needs to confront the realities of affordable housing (just as petroleum and coal need to reckon with alternative energy), it is most certainly the realty sector.

Moreover, the onslaught of mistruths, mangled information and purely grade-school fibs put forth by opponents of affordable housing and the real estate tax ignore that the cost of the excise tax is left to the buyer. No equity is robbed from homeowners and buyers have the time-honored privilege of free will to guide their purchases. Let’s repeat that: Homeowners are not subject to any additional fees—ever—as a result of this tax.

There are legitimate arguments against the transfer tax as it is proposed. For one, it’s inherently undemocratic—we should all bear the burden of tending to our community. However, opponents are too clouded with greed to even mount substantive arguments in opposition; they’d rather rely on cheap sound bites and malicious sloganeering than have a real conversation about the health of our community.

The vote takes place on Tuesday, March 10. If ever there was a time to tell the special interests, the wealthy, the privileged and the economic predators of our city that it’s time for them to stand up and be accountable along with the rest of us, it’s now.
Let’s not forget that taxes exist to service the working people. La gente have had their bubble burst too many times before to fall for it again.

 

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