Monday, January 19, 2009

Williamson County's greatest peril: Rising property taxes even on unemployed homeowners are certainty as Bredesen cuts local share of state aid


President Barack Obama will not be the blame.

Gov. Phill Bredesen will -- after he cuts the local share of state aid, forcing a shocking rise in property taxes to fund schools, police and other services in Williamson County and every one in the loop around Nashville.

The governor, who told Obama not to campaign in Tennessee, won't let you know the extent of your taxation suffering because, well, he is waiting on Obama and his stimulus plan to reduce the extent of the $1 billion in budget cuts needed in Tennessee.

Obama won't get that stimulus package any time soon because of his own party in Congress. So Bredesen, by mid-February when he makes his State of the State address, will be amid more extreme budgetary crisis than there is now. He'll soon receive the horrible sales tax numbers from a weak Christmas buying season when all state governments expect to make the needed revenue.

Bredesen is not going to get it. And he is going to make you pay at home.

Don't feel like you're being singled out. My favorite financial website,, says you'll have a lot of company with other homeowners in other states strapped to make their own ends meet in a new, tougher economy amid growing layoffs.

If you think it isn't fair, you're right. But all the capitalism gives, it also takes. Politicians simply make it worse.

I hate to bring bad news, but my 10 years of economics reporting experience -- from the oil and gas fields of Oklahoma amid 100 bank failures to the gold-lined ceilings at GM headquarters in Detroit to the New York Stock Exchange where the statue of George Washington holds court -- tells me that I should tell you the truth.

You need to adjust your household budgets now and not plan on taking a vacation to preserve the best parts of your lifestyle and standard of living.

Trust me. I watch CNBC 12 hours a day for ENTERTAINMENT.

I got out of the market above 12,000.

You'd be wise to take out a subscription to the Herald because I will alert you on its pages to the economic turmoil before it happens so you can prepare. I'm not kidding. I take this responsibility very seriously because this mess is touching good families and fellow believers.


Here is the bleak picture, from Marketwatch:

No, the real danger to your wallets comes much closer to home -- from cash-strapped states and municipalities, which are in their worst shape fiscally in decades.

Though they may resist at first, governors and state legislatures could be forced to raise income taxes, sales taxes, state university tuitions, transit fees and whatever else will help pay the freight.

That may mute the impact of any federal stimulus package, because if one government takes while another gives, you'll still have less money to spend at the mall.

The situation is dire. The recession and the housing crash have landed body blows to local governments, severely reducing tax revenues. The National Governors Association projects fiscal 2009 budget shortfalls may reach $60 billion, and fiscal 2010 deficits could top $80 billion.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based liberal think tank that focuses on state and local finances, says: "Combined budget gaps for the remainder of the fiscal year and state fiscal years 2010 and 2011 are estimated to total more than $350 billion."

Maybe we shouldn't spend the second half of the $700-billion Troubled Asset Relief Program so quickly.

Indeed, the governors say states "may experience negative spending growth" this year for the first time since 1983 "and states may take up to several years after a recession is over to fully recover."

Until then, it's time to batten down the hatches.

Now, County Executive Rogers Anderson is very good with numbers. County Commissioner Clyde Lynch is a dogged budget warrior.

But what is coming down Franklin Pike from the state Capitol is a nasty mess that will leave everyone soiled, and you paying a lot higher property taxes by fall.

Tennessee's economy is ill-prepared for this long recession, purposely tied by Bredesen and other governors to the new car industry, which now can't sell a new car because few people can get credit. Layoffs in this industry in 2009 will decimate Tennessee's tax revenue system throughout the Midstate and leave Loop counties cutting even more services or raising your property taxes more.

Sorry for the bad news. But someone had to tell you. I thought it best to come from a friend.

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