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Big Transfer Tax Win

January 1, 2012

Winning passage of a state constitutional amendment would be a feather in the cap of any organization. But for Louisiana REALTORS® fighting to ban transfer taxes, last November’s victory was especially important. Louisiana now joins Arizona, Montana, and Missouri, as the only states having constitutional amendments prohibiting transfer taxes from being imposed on the sale of a property.

This huge win for REALTORS® and real property owners came after a year of careful planning. The Louisiana REALTORS® took straightforward, yet -methodical steps to achieve their goal. They elicited -assistance from NAR’s Campaign Services department, including political consultants and strategists, as well as financial support from NAR’s Issues Mobilization Committee. Today, this type of assistance and funding (and much more) is available to all associations at the My REALTOR® Party Web site (visit MyRealtorParty.com)

How they did it

Louisiana’s first step was to lobby state senators and House members to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot for the November election. After finding champions in both the House and Senate, the bill was passed unanimously in both and was placed on the Nov. 19, 2011, statewide ballot as Amendment No. 1.

Next, Louisiana REALTORS® needed strong voter support. This is where the grassroots strength and organization of the state’s 13 local associations was critical. Local boards distributed or delivered more than 10,000 residential yard signs, 250 large signs, 10,000 bumper stickers, 5,000 lapel stickers, 5,000 push cards, and 50,000 postcards, all in support of Amendment No. 1. Regular and frequent communication kept members informed and engaged in the process.

Volunteer leaders and their association executives from across the state strategically engaged with -local opinion makers and members of the media, in addition to conducting phone-a-thons and rallies to inform and motivate voters. By the end of the campaign, Louisiana REALTORS® gained support of the issue from 15 like-minded organizations across the state, including several local chambers of commerce. About a dozen newspapers across the state endorsed Amendment 1, including papers in six of the seven major metropolitan markets. A handful of television stations also editorialized in favor of the amendment in the days before the election. Social media, such as Facebook, also played a role in getting the word out about the issue, providing news article updates and other campaign information, including posts from many REALTORS®.

The campaign message

Because REALTORS® and staff at all three levels had a cohesive message and strategy, the campaign was focused, powerful, and effective. From the beginning, stakeholders developed three key issues and used them to educate the public on the importance of passing the constitutional amendment.

  1. Protect your property from double taxation. Louisiana, like many other states, imposes yearly property taxes. A transfer tax would essentially mean a double tax on property if ever imposed, penalizing those who wish to invest. As we know from statistics, home owners and commercial property owners all have stakes in their communities and are generally the ones investing in, giving back to, and strengthening their local areas. They not only live in the area but are also business owners whose livelihood depends on the strength of their community. Discouraging those who make the greatest investments doesn’t make sense.
  2. A transfer tax is an inefficient revenue generator. This type of tax is an unstable source of income for a government. As real estate prices rise and fall over the years, the income earned from transfer taxes fluctuates from year to year. A different type of tax, such as a broad-based flat tax, or sales tax, is a more reliable stream of income. Spending cuts can also save government dollars, although they are not often popular with politicians.
  3. Transfer taxes discourage home ownership. Transfer taxes can put a significant burden on those trying to purchase their first homes, often keeping this goal out of reach. As we also know from statistics, a home is the No. 1 wealth builder for those starting out. If an individual or family cannot purchase a first home, they cannot build wealth by purchasing a second and third home, which often becomes an integral part of retirement wealth.

Local Associations play a Key Role in Legislative Advocacy

Although staff and elected leaders at the state and national levels of the REALTOR® organization had much to do with this legislative success, it couldn’t have been done without a lot of work and dedication from the local associations, as well. Local associations informed their members and local consumers, and campaigned hard for the amendment. As a result, these local associations can claim victory and demonstrate the value of membership, which begins at the local level.

Victory for REALTORS® and homeowners

In November, history was made in Louisiana when 476,938 residents voted to approve Amendment 1, prohibiting transfer taxes on the sale of properties in the state. This issue passed by a whopping 81 percent, largely due to REALTORS®’ strategy, hard work, and focus. The results will make home and property ownership more affordable for years to come—a huge victory for REALTORS®, property owners, and -communities.

For more information on this Louisiana win, visit the Web site created to approve Amendment No. 1 at www.staytaxfree.com.

REALTOR® Party Resources for You!

As advocates for the real estate industry and the rights of property owners, one of your REALTOR® association’s duties is to protect the interests of those who wish to buy and sell real estate. Interested in doing something like this in your city or state? Here are some ways to get started:

  • Start thinking about the local issues affecting REALTORS® and real estate, and consider how your association can effect change.
  • Visit the MyRealtorParty.com Web site to see what other associations are doing—no association is too big or small to make a difference.
  • Contact NAR’s Campaign Services department at 202-383-1191 or campaignservices@realtors.org to discuss your goals.
  • Or contact the My REALTOR® Party consultant for your state (visit Realtoractioncenter.com for a list).
  • Start building partnerships with like-minded local organizations, such as the chamber of commerce.
  • Get to know your local and state elected officials.

Kyle Lambert-London, RCE, e-PRO, CAE, is the project manager of Campaign Services for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. She can be reached at 202-383-1203 or klambertlondon@realtors.org.