To the editor:
Would you believe Baraga County waterfront land has something in common with the most distressed Detroit real estate? "You can't give away waterfront land here," a local real estate agent told me matter-of-factly. Why? Because of the tax liability new owners would incur.
He's absolutely right. There is no incentive to purchase waterfront land when buyers will face an astronomical tax increase regardless of purchase price. The culprit at play is the trifecta of Michigan's tax law, Proposal A, which keeps property taxes low for longtime owners but uncaps them for new owners to reflect current market value, an out-of control tax assessor, and an appeals board all too willing to back him up.
Baraga County's greatest assets unquestionably are its frontage on Lake Superior along with its inland lakes and streams. But the current tax environment keeps a choke hold on growth. It makes waterfront land, like sections of Detroit, toxic.
Michigan desperately needs to relook at Proposal A and what it has wrought. Another example of what this law deters comes from a real estate agent on the Wisconsin/U.P. border. Before Proposal A, 70 percent of his sales were in the U.P. With the tax implications of the law, his U.P. sales have since shrunk to 30 percent with tax-friendlier Wisconsin picking up the difference. So is it any wonder that Michigan is the lone state in the union losing population?
Proposal A is a statewide problem. The law plainly, simply, should be overturned. But the local situation is greatly exacerbated when you allow the assessments of the tax assessor to rise to the maximum after uncapping and then disallow appeals when they are made.
In the end, do you want the area to thrive? Or do you prefer that it twist in the wind and slowly die? Continuing on the present course I believe sharply tilts it toward the latter.