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The Property Tax and the Fortunes of Older Industrial Cities

Barry Bluestone and Chase M. Billingham, January 1, 2008

Most people are not particularly fond of paying taxes of any sort, but the discontent with one particular type of public levy, the local property tax, is gaining momentum across the country. Disgruntled homeowners are demanding that governors and mayors find alternative methods to raise revenue in order to relieve their own property tax burden.

Decades ago this discontent led to such tax limitation measures as Proposition 13 in California and Proposition 2½ in Massachusetts. More recently, this movement has been driven by sharply rising property tax levies in many cities and suburbs as a result of the extraordinary appreciation in property values over the past few years. The high visibility of the property tax, which in contrast to sales and income taxes is often paid annually in one or two large installments, makes this form of revenue generation an attractive target for taxpayer antipathy.