Other than our two Teton County Democrat representatives in Cheyenne (encouraged by several thoughtless Republicans), who else knew that a second home is a community “social asset” instead of one’s personal property?
We have a second home in another state. Wyoming is our state of residence. How long before owners of any seasonally unoccupied home wake up to the taxman’s gun at their heads, demanding “rent it out or pay up.”
Second-home owners here use less services, and their kids don’t attend local schools. Do our inventive representatives intend to credit those owners for services not used to offset the tax penalty? Something tells me this simple calculation of an equitable offset hasn’t entered their minds.
So what’s the next social asset to appropriate for government purposes? If you have a second car, shouldn’t you pay an extra tax if you don’t turn it over to the Jackson community car pool for part-time use of people without cars? What about your second bike? Isn’t that a social asset too? Your camper? With the imagination of these legislators and their local counterparts, you might soon find yourself missing your back pocket as well as your wallet.
In their regime, intrusive government bureaucrats will have the authority to determine whether your home is actually a second home under their arbitrary regulations. How much will it cost the county to set up and maintain that bureaucracy?
Will homeowners have to attest under penalty of perjury (possible prosecution?) that their home here is not seasonal? Have to submit to inspections? Have to worry about a hostile neighbor reporting a suspected violation to Jackson’s own enforcers?
What if you want the tax break but don’t want the risk that a tenant trashes your home or steals? How do you insure for that? What if your homeowners’ insurance won’t cover a part-time rental of your home (ours won’t)? What if you evict the tenant before the end of the lease and the house ends up unoccupied after you declared it leased and took the tax credit? Will you have to report yourself? Will failure to report the change in status be a crime of fraud?
Politicians think about more tax revenue with stars in their eyes, but give not a second’s consideration to the horrifying governmental intrusion into the lives of their neighbors or to the administrative monster they create.
Back in the day, when people believed property they bought and paid for was actually theirs to use without begging for special dispensation from government, the thought of politicians commandeering use of private property for housing strangers would have seen them defeated in the next election, if not recalled sooner than that. But those are indeed days gone by. The great thinkers of our political class conjure ways to take and spend instead of conserve. In their thinking, government’s job is to provide housing, funded by increasing burdens on the very taxpayers the politicians claim they want to help.
Everywhere else in Wyoming, and in most sanely governed communities in most sanely governed states, reasonable regulation and permitting encourages private capital investments in house building and rental stock. And there is enough housing — housing markets actually function. High prices bring more supply. Private capital takes the risks, earns the profits and absorbs the losses.
But not here in the People’s Republic of Teton County. There will never be enough money for these politicians to appropriate from taxpayers. Take a look at your property tax bills over the past few years and you’ll see what I mean. Are our schools better? Are services any better? Is there any end in sight, any discussion of a maximum annual percentage increase or a final cap on bills? Or if not an absolute cap, at least a limit compared to the rate of inflation? I can’t see any sign of it, nor can you. Our own taxes are up 43% in four years, 8% last year alone.
How about another approach: Let’s have our elected officials provide us a complete, independently audited inventory of government-owned housing and all other housing controlled by regulation and by contract. And honest profit and loss statements for each housing complex and program. Let’s see what we taxpayers really own and how much it’s costing us. That’s called accountability, and there’s none of it here today.