Property Taxes

Wisconsin REALTORS® Urge State Senate to ‘Hold the Line’ on Property Taxes

Property taxes are already plenty high in the state of Wisconsin – the fifth highest in the nation – and in the first budget bill introduced by the new governor, there was a provision to increase them even further. With help from an Issues Mobilization grant, the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association (WRA) launched a campaign called ‘Hold the Line on Property Taxes’ that made voters’ preferences abundantly clear to the statehouse.

The 2019-2021 budget proposed by Governor Tony Evers would have lifted a freeze on municipal and county property tax levies enacted by the state in 2011, which has meant considerable savings for Wisconsin families in recent years, explains Joe Murray, WRA’s Director of Political Affairs. “High taxes are already a real problem, especially for aspiring home-buyers and the elderly on fixed incomes,” he says. “The governor’s plan would have made housing even less affordable.”

WRA had the luxury of a two-month planning period before e xecuting its full-blown advocacy campaign, for which it allocated $250,000 of its own funds, in addition to receiving the Issues Mobilization grant. They used a local consulting firm with more than 20 years’ experience in Wisconsin politics to conduct initial polling and frame the onslaught of digital, direct mail, radio, and billboard advertising; they also created a campaign website. Murray notes that, “the old legacy media really worked best in this case. Direct mail, which was superbly targeted, combined with heavy advertising on conservative talk-radio shows, was a powerful combination, and created a significant political force.” Three rounds of mailers were sent out, spelling out the property tax issue and equipped with handy tear-off postcards to forward to the senator representing that household. “Let’s just say the governor’s plan to raise property taxes really touched a nerve,” says Murray. “The reaction was strong and swift, and the Wisconsin state senate did, in fact, ‘hold the line’ on property taxes!”

Lacking the support of the senate, the governor signed the budget without the tax increase provision on July 3, 2019.

To help express tax-payer gratitude, the final mailer in the campaign series featured a tear-off ‘thank-you’ card to senators for ‘holding the line’ on property taxes.  “You want to reward your friends,” says Murray.

With 32 years on the job and several such campaigns under his belt, Murray is continually impressed by the strength of NAR’s advocacy program. “Seven or eight years ago when the REALTOR® Party was really ramping up and encouraging states to tap into its resources, Wisconsin was glad to do so – and to great effect! We’re grateful to the REALTOR® Party for all the support it makes available to us.”

To learn more about how Wisconsin REALTORS® are keeping vigilant and protecting homeowners from the threat of increased property taxes, contact Joe Murray, Director of Political Affairs, at 608-575-0023.

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Advocacy Everywhere Helps DC Association of REALTORS® Keep Property Taxes at Bay

In the weeks before a budget vote by the D.C. City Council, staff at the 3,000-member D.C. Association of REALTORS® (DCAR) was monitoring negotiations closely – and a good thing, too:  just three days out, a single tweet from a veteran journalist hinted that a council member was planning to introduce an “emergency amendment” that would impose a “Mansion Tax” on homes valued more than a million dollars, and a separate tax on those more than $2 million. Never mind that many million-dollar homes in the nation’s capital could not be considered ‘mansions’ by any other standard; the “emergency” nature of the legislation left no room for public comment, which was what alarmed the REALTORS®.

At the time, DCAR was in the middle of a campaign advocating to keep an important consumer protection measure adequately funded. They had to shift gears fast, relates Bryan Frantz, the board’s Manager of Communications. “First, we called the council member, with whom we’ve always had a good relationship, to confirm it was true.” Notes DCAR Vice President of Government Affairs Katalin Peter, “I actually said, ‘You’re kidding, right?!’” The council member was not, and Peter informed him that the REALTORS® would have to do what they had to do. “I told him that while we understand he might want to consider tax proposals, not allowing any public debate was way too extreme. This would increase the annual residential property tax for a large number of D.C. homeowners, and they deserve a fair hearing.”

Next, DCAR notified NAR staff that they needed to halt the campaign in progress to tackle the last-minute amendment. “They were able to pivot on a dime and do exactly what we needed,” says Frantz. “With very little time, they gave us the ability to mobilize a significant portion of our membership for the cause. They helped us put out another Call for Action, and despite the fact that the interruption of a campaign-in-progress may have been somewhat confusing, there was a tremendous response from our members. It was our single most successful campaign ever, with more than 260 action-takers contacting their own representatives, the City Council Chairman, and DC’s at-large representatives.”

With that kind of push-back – plus Peter’s energetic direct lobbying of the entire City Council – the council member in question agreed to introduce his proposal as a stand-alone bill in an upcoming session, which will give opponents the opportunity to approach and combat it with typical methods. Additionally, the $1 million threshold will be increased to $1.5 million. Notes Frantz, “While we’re obviously still going to advocate against this bill, even if it passes as written, we’ve accomplished a significant victory in stopping the property tax hike (for now)!”

Peter emphasizes that thanks to the REALTOR® Party, GADs needn’t feel alone when a legislative crisis such as this one hits: “Don’t think you have to lift this all by yourself:  this resource is really, really good – as good as you are – and the team is right there for you! NAR staff is so quick and agile,” she adds. “We simply couldn’t have done this without them.”

To learn more about how REALTORS® in the nation’s capital are protecting the rights of property owners with tools from the REALTOR® Party, contact Katalin Peter, DCAR’s Vice President of Government Affairs, or Bryan Frantz, Manager of Communications.



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Hawaii Supreme Court Throws Out Constitutional Amendment Ballot Question

Congratulations to the Hawaii Association of REALTORS® for their hard work in defeating a proposed constitutional amendment that would’ve raised investment property taxes for education.

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