I attended my state association’s Legislative Impact Day on March 15th at the Xcel Energy Center near the state capitol. Over 5 hours we discussed demographic changes coming to and already occuring in Minnesota, and spent a long time discussing housing and tax policy.
I’ve been to this event in previous years and so I’ve come to expect that parts of the day would be slow and that I wouldn’t agree with all that was said in the room, but that in general we are all aligned with the same common goals. Unfortunately my association embarassed and disappointed me a little this year…
As in previous years, we invite members of the governor’s administration as well as elected representatives from the capitol to come to discuss their views on housing issues and to open up a Q&A section. This year we were skunked by the governor again but did get the director of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA), several other members of the administration and several elected officials from both sides of the aisle to come in and speak to us. The speeches were great and the Q&A’s for the most part were done well too.
So how did I get embarassed and disappointed? Well this year my state association decided it would be really neat to make big signs and put them on sticks and have REALTORS hold them up while their guests were speaking. The signs had to do with “living within our means” i.e. don’t raise taxes on the state deed tax or expand the sales tax to include services… both of which are on the table.
These signs seemed to be a pretty tacky way to reinterate to our guests a position they are already well aware of, as we have a kick-ass team of lobbyists on the capitol. This was a conference, not a two-bit rally, and to hold these signs up when our guests were speaking seems inconsiderate and unprofessional. To make matters worse, several of the signs had the same message misspelled! There was a sign at each table and someone at my table held ours up, much to my disdain.
This alone was enough to get me a little miffed that I paid $50 to be a part of this spectacle, but it got a little more annoying when Chris Galler, Senior VP of MNAR and a great guy, was going over the results of a survey that the association had commissioned regarding taxes. They asked citizens how they felt about their state government and their current tax burden and then put the results into some great pie and bar charts.
I thought, “hey, this is great to get some feedback.” Then Chris continued and explained what some of the questions were. This is one that was asked: “do you think you pay too much , just about right, or too few taxes?” Can you guess how people responded? Yep, most said too much or just about right. Another question asked “State and local government costs you about $.16 out of every dollar you make, do you think this is enough?” What do you think they said here? Again, the clear majority said it was enough. Well crap, the association could have given me the $10k-$20k they paid to get those answers!
When I’m talking to sellers and we’re discussing the commission rates that are available to them, I don’t say to them: “Mr. and Mrs. Seller, I can charge you 6%, or I could charge you more if you’d like… what would you prefer?” That’s a question alright, but it doesn’t educate them as to why a higher commission brings additional benefits that may have significant value to them. Without knowing the added benefits, I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to be charged more “just because.”
I sit more in the middle of the road politically, vote Democrat on most issues, and do think that sometimes increased taxes can be justified. It would have been great to see a report that really probed constituents on their beliefs about taxation for things like affordable housing, healthcare, transportation, etc. Instead all I got to see was a report that catered to the 80% +/- of my peers that are Republican.
I want my $50 back…