A man’s home is his castle, right? Not exactly. Once the mortgage is paid a man has the comfort of knowing it’s his for life, right? Not exactly. The government cannot take a man’s homestead away except as necessary to build a highway, a bridge or some other project for the benefit of all, certainly not to turn it over to another private party, right? Not exactly.
A real King could do what he liked in his castle. A man today can do only what the government permits. The permission process can be long, costly and still end up in being denied. Your mother may have to go to the nursing home if the town won’t allow the changes needed to accommodate her living with you.
You can pay off the mortgage for life. The bank will never come back and say “We decided we want some more money from you. We are running a little short.” But the government will. It’s called property tax. You can never pay it off and you can never stop the collector from deciding to take a little more if they are running short.
You have heard of the law of eminent domain. Let’s go to the dictionary. Eminent – prominent, of higher standing. Domain – a territory over which rule or control is exercised. The government has final rights to your castle, not you. The US Supreme court in the Kelo decision allowed the taking of a home from a taxpayer in Connecticut enabling a developer to bulldoze the house and build something that would yield higher property tax revenue.
You worked all your life, you scraped and you saved, you did everything right. You achieved the dream, the home is yours. Now it is the autumn of your life. You have earned the comfort of knowing that whatever happens, your home is yours for life. Not exactly. If misfortune strikes and you can’t pay the rent they call property tax, it’s bye, bye castle.
Oh, I know, many municipalities have laws and practices that allow you to stay in your own home until you die. But there is something disquieting about the fact that you are living at the mercy of a government in what has become their home by default.
The people of North Dakota have decided to do something about it.
“I would like to be able to know that my home, no matter what happens to my income or my life, is not going to be taken away from me because I can’t pay a tax,” said Susan Beehler, one in a group of North Dakotans who have pressed for an amendment to the state’s Constitution to end the property tax. They argue that the tax is unpredictable, inconsistent, counter to the concept of property ownership.
The proposition comes to a vote on Tuesday. It isn’t practical enough to pass, but it’s a nice idea.