Delaware REALTORS® Use REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts to Save Itemized Deductions
But with the recent loss of GM and Dupont jobs, and casino profits dwindling, the deficit on the state of Delaware’s $4 billion budget this past fiscal year was close to $400 million. Something had to be done to help fill the gap. The Delaware Association of REALTORS® had managed to dissuade the legislature from pursuing a statewide property tax, and had received a strong indication from the Joint Finance Committee that it would not be looking to eliminate itemized deductions from the state tax code. But then it did. And the REALTORS® responded in force.
Maria Evans, Government Affairs Director of the 3,800-member association, explains that the bill, which threatened both mortgage interest and property tax deductions, was introduced just under the wire, and the association issued a Call for Action in short order. This was the first time that Evans, a veteran GAD, had used REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts. It couldn't have been simpler, she says. "It was easy for me to set up, and easy for our members to take action. I drafted the text message to our members, and a basic form letter that could accommodate additional personal comments. The REALTOR® Party team talked me through the set-up; I was working on this fairly late-night, and they were right there with me. We had to get it out ASAP. With just a few clicks, constituents were voicing their opposition to the bill." The fact that the system is address-based means that legislators are only hearing from their own constituents, which has a much stronger impact on the receiving end, she notes.
What really amazed Evans is that the REALTOR® Party followed up with a finely targeted text message alert to those who had not yet responded, and then another, after a calculated amount of time. Before the dust had cleared, more than 1,100 REALTORS® had taken action: a remarkable response rate of 31%, the highest, by far, for Delaware. The click-through rate, according to the National Association of REALTORS, was an astonishing 87%—a national record, and far above the average state CFA click-through rate of about 15%. The REALTORS® also reached out to the general public through the Consumer Advocacy Outreach Program, which generated a modest but helpful response.
"The volume of emails from our REALTOR® members was amazing!" says Evans. "We had a caucus across the aisle, and needed just one more vote, and we got it. The emails to legislators also allowed us to hold on to the votes we had. There is no doubt in my mind that it was our initiative, with the help of the REALTOR® Party, that carried the vote." The Speaker of the House had no doubts either, as Evans and the President and General Counsel of the Delaware REALTORS® learned when he called them in to his office. "He was livid that the state had been forced into an unprecedented extraordinary session, and placed the blame squarely on the REALTORS®. For my part," reports Evans, "I was happy to accept that credit!"
The REALTORS®' success in defending the mortgage interest and property tax deductions came at a cost, however: in the three-day extraordinary session, the legislators hiked the transfer tax by 1%, a whopping 33% increase. Evans got right to work, and is hopeful that in January, it will be amended to exempt first-time home buyers and possibly primary dwellings, as well. "We need to make sure the legislators understand that not all prospective buyers are investing in beach houses," she says. "This is going to hurt kids living in their parents' basements, and working people scraping their pennies together for a first home."
To learn more about how the Delaware REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party tools to protect property rights by engaging members in the legislative process, contact Government Affairs Director Maria Evans at 302-734-4444.
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