Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Super-majority vote is fair

Bond elections for city improvements, have caused the old "super majority" issue to once again raise its ugly head. Most of the recent bonds in the state have passed the two-thirds super majority. Those in favor of the bonds--not unfairly labeled as "liberals"--see the 67 percent majority as an unfair hurdle to approving long-term public debt. Those against--reasonably labeled as "conservatives"--like the idea that they get to cancel two votes with each of their votes.

Then there are those who don't like the formula at all. They think the two-thirds super majority should come from two-thirds of the registered voters—not just two-thirds of those who choose to vote.

Some reasoned thoughts from the Boise Guardian: The super majority (two-thirds approval of those who vote) is a fair system. It serves as a safeguard against a very slim majority of voters imposing taxes on the vast majority of property owners, many of whom are precluded from voting. In Ada County, about half the property valuation in the county has no vote because it is commercial property or owned by absentee landlords. However, the rest of us can vote to impose taxes on all the retail outlets, warehouses, production facilities, etc. Micron has a tax cap, thanks to the Legislature.

The super majority is a fair safeguard.

In McCall, nearly 75 percent of the property tax comes from "recreation land" owned by nonresidents. That number probably holds true for Blaine County as well. Locals can impose taxes on all the vacationers who visit to escape the big city but never use the schools and local government facilities funded by their property tax bonds.

The "fair" alternative would be to allow only property owners—resident and nonresident alike—to vote on property tax issues. Our U.S. Supreme Court and democratic system won't allow that feudal process.

Blaine County has millions upon millions of dollars worth of assessed valuation that gets no vote. It's owned by all the rich movie stars and Eastern money people. They get no voice in how their property is taxed.

"Fair" is a matter of perspective, as is the super majority. For instance, how would proponents feel about a "simple majority" empowered to dissolve a community college or repeal a school property tax bond?

David R. Frazier


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