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"Tax Reform" proposal is dead

Council rejects radical shake up of property taxes



It started innocently enough. Concerned that rapidly increasing and uneven property assessments were resulting in big tax increases for homeowners, three years ago HRM councillors established the Tax Reform Committee and charged it with finding a better way to fund government.

Along the way, however, the committee went off track. It embraced the concept of a "fee-for-service" tax system and ran with it. The resulting proposal, if enacted, would have been the most radical transformation of a municipal tax system ever undertaken in North America. Owners of high-value properties would have each seen annual tax cuts of thousands of dollars, with the lost revenue made up by increasing taxes on more modest homes. It was a tax system that right-wing American Libertarian types can only dream of.

But in recent weeks many councillors grasped the social implications of where "tax reform" had led them. With admirable courage---they now face a potential electoral backlash from their wealthy constituents---those councillors voted Tuesday to kill the "tax reform" proposal outright.

That doesn't mean there will be no future attempt to tweak the city tax code---a relatively small transit tax comes up for review in April, and some councillors vow to bring the fee-for-service system forward one bit at a time, over coming years---but a wholesale, one-fell-swoop radicalization of tax policy is off the table for the foreseeable future.

Sometimes, our politicians do the right thing.

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