help@borntogive.com

tax

Lincoln REALTORS® Mobilize Voters to Support Roadway Improvements

After substantial potholes caused massive damage to vehicles amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in claims, the city of Omaha, Neb., was recently forced to close two major thoroughfares. Fifty miles to the south, roads in the state capital were likewise crumbling.

Using an Issues Mobilization grant, the REALTORS® Association of Lincoln took the lead in supporting a ballot initiative to fund critical road repairs. Though it passed by a very slim margin, says Kyle Fischer, Executive Vice President of the 930-member board, the quarter-percent sales tax increase will help safeguard the city’s economic development, public safety, and quality of life for at least the next six years.

The new funding mechanism was first proposed by a bi-partisan group called the Lincoln Citizen’s Transportation Coalition, following a lengthy study of the city’s insufficient street-repair budget and possible solutions, explains Fischer. The Lincoln City Council voted six-to-one to put the initiative on the ballot, and the REALTORS® got right to work promoting the time-limited, quarter-percent tax increase to the voting public.

“We reached out to NAR about the process, and they walked us through the next steps,” says Fischer. First, the Lincoln REALTORS® received polling services through the REALTOR® Party’s trusted vendor. Initial polling indicated that the ballot measure was slightly favored by a margin of 57-41, with 2% undecided. Armed with that encouragement, the association submitted an application for an Issues Mobilization grant. “The application process wasn’t quick and easy, but it was incredibly user-friendly, he says. “I’d tell first-time applicants to give themselves plenty of time for collecting details and background information and planning a budget. It will take some time to put it all together, but once you have, you’ve got a good road map, and you’ll really know your stuff. In fact, NAR took our initial application and reached right back out to us about what we could do to enhance it, to make it even stronger,” he notes.

The REALTORS® were the largest donor to the campaign called Fix Lincoln Streets Now, which educated voters through a dedicated website and social media messaging. The REALTOR® Party grant funded phone banks that called voters in the last four days leading up to the election, and that, says Fischer, is what made the difference. Despite being supported by the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Civil Engineers Association, and the Lincoln Independent Business Association, among others, the measure only passed by a difference of 368 votes. “Our members are so excited that we were able to play such a critical role in the outcome of the vote,” he adds. “It’s very gratifying to know that the REALTORS® have contributed to making the streets better.

Members on the ground and in the trenches are more aware than anyone that having functioning, passable streets affects every aspect of a community’s well-being, from emergency access, to reducing the necessity of expensive car repairs, to home values. Taking care of the infrastructure helps to ensure a strong economy.”

To learn more about how the REALTOR® Association of Lincoln, Nebraska is using REALTOR® Party resources to improve the condition of city streets, contact Executive Vice President Kyle Fischer at 402-441-3625.

Read more

Missouri REALTORS® Form Coalition to Fight Sales Tax on Services

In the past seven years, no fewer than twelve pieces of legislation that could have led to a tax on services, including those provided by the real estate industry, were proposed in the state of Missouri.  “The threat is real,” says John Sebree, CEO of Missouri REALTORS®, whose organization has been swatting back each one, with the strong support of the National Association of REALTORS®.  This year, it seized an opportunity to shift from a defensive to an offensive strategy.  Its attempt to amend the state constitution to ban a sales tax on services is ambitious, and possibly unprecedented in the nation, but by appealing to the general public, first to get the referendum on the ballot, and then for votes in its favor, its Missourians for Fair Taxation coalition is finding strength in numbers.

This is not the first time that Missouri REALTORS® has led a charge to amend the state constitution.  It formed the Missourians for Fair Taxation coalition six years ago, to oppose a threatened transfer tax initiative; the Missouri constitution now prohibits such a tax.  That was seen as a largely real estate issue, explains Sebree, but the current referendum on the November 8 ballot banning a sales tax on services is everyone’s issue, he says, and the Missouri REALTORS® are feeling a groundswell of support for their effort to amend the state constitution for a second time.

“The general public may not have strong feelings about a tax on real estate services,” says Sebree, “but in this service-oriented economy, they definitely get it when you talk to them about how a tax on services will increase what they have to pay for daycare, and haircuts and car repair.”  The Taxpayer Protection Amendment, as the ballot initiative is called, opposes what would effectively be a ‘birth-to-death’ tax, he says.  The scope of services that might be affected is reflected in the Missourians for Fair Taxation coalition, itself, which began as a handful of real estate industry organizations, and now comprises twenty-four professional service groups, including those representing the state’s optometrists, broadcasters, cattlemen, interior designers, grocers and funeral directors.

With major backing from NAR and Missouri REALTORS®’ own state-level advocacy fund, the coalition is in the midst of an energetic campaign it hopes will make the Taxpayer Protection Amendment a legal reality.  In its first phase, the campaign was focused on polling and planning.  During phase two, the coalition secured tens of thousands of voter signatures in order to get its amendment on the ballot.  Gearing up toward Election Day, in addition to launching a barrage of paid radio, television and print ads, the cause has garnered an abundance of free media coverage thanks to the rallies held by Missouri’s 34 local REALTOR® Associations.  According to Sebree, social media has also been buzzing: “REALTORS® are naturals at using technology to get the word out; factor in NAR’s incredible resources for targeting likely voters, and that makes for some powerful communication.”  

The outcome is too soon to call, says Sebree, “but we have incredibly positive momentum at this point.  In any event, I’m happy to state for the record that we never could have gotten this far without the great team at NAR, and the support of the REALTOR® Party.”  Julienne Uhlich, NAR’s Campaign Services Manager, points out that the Missouri REALTORS® are pioneering a course that has national relevance.  “As states seek new or increased sources of revenue, the imposition of a tax on services is something that could become an issue for all REALTORS®.  Missouri’s pro-active effort to make it a constitutional impossibility, if successful, will be a great model.  It will not have been cheap nor easy, but this is the kind of action that could save lots of repeated defensive campaigns down the road.”

To learn more about how Missouri REALTORS® are taking the national lead on prohibiting sales tax on services by pursuing an amendment to the state constitution, contact CEO John Sebree at john@morealtor.com or 573-445-8400.

Read more