Archives For taxes

Maetreum of Cybele, a nonprofit religious organization, may be winning its legal battles against the Town of Catskill over a property tax exemption, but if the town’s alleged tactic of pushing them into bankruptcy works, the wins in the courtroom won’t matter. Unless the Maetreum raises $10,000 for legal fees, they may have to declare bankruptcy.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

The legal issue at hand is if the Maetreum uses its property primarily for religious purposes, which would exempt them from paying property taxes. The Town of Catskill says the group is an “illegitimate religion” and is using the property for residential, rather than religious uses. The Maetreum says the town doesn’t want to “open the floodgates” to other nonprofit groups claiming tax exemptions which deprives the town of tax revenue.

Despite the unanimous decision in 2013 by a three judge panel of the Appellate Division of New York’s Supreme Court favorable to the Maetreum, the Town of Catskill took the unusual step of appealing the ruling to the New York State Court of Appeals. A ruling by the Court of Appeals is expected later this Fall and the Maetrum expects it to uphold the previous decision that the Maetreum is a religious nonprofit and as such is exempt from paying property taxes. Catskill also recently filed charges against the Maetreum for refusing to allow a municipal inspection to look for code violations and a trial is now scheduled for late September. The Maetreum, in an effort to preserve their property rights while the September trail takes place, filed suit against the town’s attempt to use property codes to condemn and foreclose on the property in the Greene County Supreme Court of New York.

So far the Maestreum has paid out more than $65,000 in legal fees. The Town of Catskill, the Maestreum estimates, has spent hundreds of thousands. But the town’s deep pockets, Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine says, is how the town plans to win despite their losses in the courtroom, “Rather than being over, we now find ourselves in three legal actions at once. The town dragged the original two legal actions out for years with multiple bullshit motions and now this. The town attorney is known for this tactic against non-profits all over the state. To make it too expensive to keep fighting them.”

The town may finally be successful. If the Maetreum can’t raise $10,000 in the next few weeks to cover legal fees for the appeal, the Pagan convent may close.

On August 18th the Maetreum put out this statement via Facebook:

I’ve put off writing this for a long time. We are down to the wire on our long long legal battle and we are tapped out. Basically the bulk of the legal funds to date have been raised among a smallish group of our own priestesses and several extremely loyal supporters. The bulk of the money even from the fundraising efforts came from these folks.

Our lawyer is demanding payment of the balance of her bill for this last appeal and we simply do not have it. Many of us have done without for several years now to keep the battle going but there is nothing left to do without anymore, little to sell of our personal treasures. We’ve raised more than 65,000 dollars for legal fees so far and need that last 10 grand. Think about it, our annual operating costs run around 18 thousand a year and that is what we can cover comfortably ourselves and still do charitable work. That charitable work is now at a standstill, our plans for a summer of workshop weekends put off another year, our community radio station we already have the license for, a dream only.

We need help and cannot afford to raise funds from IndieGoGo again because it costs too damn much if you cannot meet your goal and the last campaign was a disaster.

Please don’t let the town of Catskill finally succeed by spending us into bankruptcy which was their tactic all along.

Paypal whatever you can afford to centralhouse@gallae.com or send a check to:

Maetreum of Cybele
3312 Route 23A
Palenville, NY 12463

Others, we’ve heard, have raised money in our names, if so we haven’t seen any of it so please donate directly.

 

The Wild Hunt has been covering this case since its beginnings in 2009.

Here is a timeline of events as they happened:

Outdoor temple at the Maetreum.

Outdoor temple at the Maetreum.

In 2007 the Maetreum of Cybele, a nonprofit religious organization, petitioned the Town of Catskill for property tax exemption. The organization was turned down after the “town lawyer, Daniel Vincelette, toured the building and issued a damning report describing a decrepit structure that stank of cat urine, lacked visible religious symbols, and operated as a crypto-housing project” (Watershed Post, May 8, 2010,)

In 2009 the Maetreum filed a grievance with the town’s Board of Assessment Review claiming “religious discrimination.” The Board upheld the tax assessor’s denial leading to the Maetreum filing a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court in Greene County. In a letter to the Wild Hunt, Rev. Cathryn Platine and Rev. Viktoria Whittaker wrote: “We own real property and run a brick-and-mortar establishment in the Town of Catskill in Greene County, New York. Our property consists of a historic former Catskill Inn called Central House and approximately 3+ acres of land with an outdoor Temple/Grove in the hamlet of Palenville. We purchased the property 2002 and turned it into a Pagan Temple and Convent … The Town of Catskill has continued to deny our exemption to this day in open violation of New York tax law which mandates the property tax exemption for religious and charitable organizations.”

In 2010 the case, Maetreum of Cybele versus the Town of Catskill, went to court where it lingered for over a year. During that time the Town repeatedly petitioned to have the case dismissed and attempted to foreclose on the organization’s property. In May the Maetreum issued a press release saying: “The attorney for the Town admitted in court, on the record that the real reason for the denials of our property tax exemption … was to prevent “opening the floodgates to similar groups.” This is an open admission of discrimination. At this point, every single ruling by the Judge has been in our favor and we anticipate eventual victory.”

In 2011 that victory came. The Maetreum received a “court ordered stay from all foreclosure proceedings until the resolution of its legal actions against the Town of Catskill.” Judge George P. Pulver Jr. of the state Supreme Court in Greene County ruled in favor of the Maetreum. The case garnered national attention through an article printed in The New York Times.

Shortly after Pulver’s ruling, the Maetreum petitioned the Town’s Board of Assessment Review once again. Just as before the request was denied. By December the case was back in court.

maetreum sign largeIn 2012 Supreme Court Judge Richard Platkin reversed Pulver’s decision and ruled in favor of the Town stating: “The Court has no reason to doubt the sincerity of the religions and spiritual beliefs of the adherents of the Cybaline Revival who testified in these proceedings. But regardless of the sincerity of these beliefs and the importance that Cybaline Revival doctrine may attach to the property and its religious use … the Court finds that the property’s principal and predominant use at relevant times was residential, rather than religion, in nature.”

By the time of the ruling, both parties had invested large sums of money in fighting the case. Neither the town nor Rev. Platine had any plans of backing down. According to a 2011 Daily Mail article, acting Catskill Town Supervisor Patrick Walsh said that “the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.”

In 2013 the Maetreum of Cybele filed an appeal with the Appellate Division of the state’s Supreme Court. On Nov. 21 a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the Maetreum stating: “Considering the testimony, [the Maetreum of Cybele] met its burden to demonstrate that it uses the property primarily for its religious and charitable purposes.”

Once again the story made national news. This time it was in Forbes Magazine. After the ruling, the Maetreum of Cybele released a statement thanking everyone who had contributed to their fundraising efforts saying, “It is truly a win for all minority religions setting forth the standard that we Pagans are to be treated in law the same as the so called mainstream religions.”

At the start of 2014, the Town of Catskill filed an appeal with the New York State Court of Appeals. According to the Watershed Post, this court only hears a very small percentage of the presented cases. In 2012 that number was 6.4 percent. Therefore “the court’s decision to accept the [Town’s] appeal came as a surprise to Deborah Schneer, the lawyer for the Maetreum.”

Now in its seventh year, the case sits in the hands of the Court of Appeals. The Maetreum of Cybele stated: “The chairman of the Board of Catskill once vowed they would never give up their fight against what he called an illegitimate religion and Catskill is keeping that promise by appealing our victory to the highest court in New York once again forcing us to raise a large amount of money for a legal defense.”

The Wild Hunt will continue to follow and report on the case, and the organization’s fundraising efforts, as it progresses.

The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, which has been in an ongoing battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, over religious property tax exemptions, was today vindicated in their multi-year struggle when a State Supreme Court ruling against them on this issue was overturned on appeal. The decision, which was issued on Thursday by the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Divsion, says the religious organization “satisfied the legal requirements in order to receive a real property tax exemption.”

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

“The testimony established that the Cybeline Revival stresses communal living among its adherents, as well as providing hospitality and charity to those in need, and the members consider this property the home of their faith [...] They also conduct religious and charitable activities throughout the property on a regular basis. Accordingly, petitioner has satisfied the legal requirements in order to receive a real property tax exemption for 2009, 2010 and 2011 [...] Lahtinen, J.P., Spain and Egan Jr., JJ., concur. ORDERED that the order is reversed, on the law, with costs, petitions granted, and determinations of the Board of Assessment Review for the Town of Catskill denying petitioner’s applications for real property tax exemptions for 2009, 2010 and 2011 annulled.”

This is a huge reversal of fortune for the Maetreum, which has been fought relentlessly by the Town of Catskill on this issue. By the Maetreum’s estimate, the town has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, and when the initial Supreme Court victory was handed down to them last year, their lawyer crowed to local press that he “does not expect much protest from pro-pagan groups now that a judge has carefully analyzed the evidence.” Even some Pagans were skeptical of the Maetreum’s chances after that decision, but the Maetreum of Cybele were determined to fight on, and with some fiscal help from the larger Pagan community, they moved forward with their appeal. Now that the appeal has been won, Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine from the Maetreum of Cybele issued the following statement:

Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine from the Maetreum of Cybele.

Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine

“The Maetreum would like to thank the greater Pagan community for the spiritual and financial help to win this case. It is truly a win for all minority religions setting forth the standard that we Pagans are to be treated in law the same as the so called mainstream religions.

Throughout this battle we at the Maetreum of Cybele have kept doing our charitable works and recently have applied for a low power FM radio license to further serve our community with true community radio. If we recover our costs that money will go towards further green projects at the Maetreum, continued charitable housing, funding the community radio station and setting up a local food pantry.

The lessons from this battle are keep true to your beliefs and values and never give up even when it looks rocky.”

Rev. Platine, speaking with Terence P Ward at Witches & Pagans Magazine, elaborated on her formal statement, saying that the most important aspect of this win is the ability to, quote, “just go back to our religious work.” 

“If they were trying to erase us, they did exactly the opposite.  Cybele is back in Neopaganism now, as well as ancient paganism.  It will be hard to write about Paganism now, and not include us.  That was part of the larger purpose.”

This property tax win, as Rev. Platine intimates, is not only a win for the Maetreum, but for all religious minorities, especially Pagan organizations making their first forays into building a lasting infrastructure of buildings and services. Whatever our tradition or beliefs, our interconnected community owes the Maetreum our thanks for fighting this battle. May they now be able to truly get back to their religious work, unmolested by a local government that thought a small Pagan groups would be easy pickings. Congratulations!

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Judge Rules Against Maetreum of Cybele Exemptions: The Maetreum of Cybele, Magna Mater, in an ongoing tax battle with the Town of Catskill, New York, has just lost their exemption battle before the New York State Supreme Court. While Judge Platkin acknowledged the Maetreum as a valid religion, he denied their building tax exemption on the grounds that the charitable purposes of the building were incidental to  its function.

The Maetreum of Cybele's building.

The Maetreum of Cybele’s building.

“The Court finds that petitioner has not satisfied its burden of demonstrating that the primary actual use of the property is in furtherance of the Maetreum’s religious mission. Rather, the record developed at trial establishes that the property primarily is used to provide affordable cooperative housing to a small number of co-religionists, with the religious and charitible uses of the property being merely incidental to that primary non-exempt use.”

Rev Cathryn Platine says she is devastated by the news, and doubts she has the fiscal or physical resources to continue this fight, noting that the process has “taken a huge toll on me personally regarding my health.” That said, Plataine says an appeal of this decision, and filing for a stay on foreclosure against the property are probably the next steps she will take. In a previous public statement, Rev Platine noted that the town has spent an estimated quarter of a million dollars to deny their exemptions, while the Maetreum is over ten thousand dollars in debt from the proceedings. Acting Catskill Town Supervisor Patrick Walsh stated in 2011 that the town was already too deep into the case to give up and that significant dollars could be saved by preventing exemptions for illegitimate religions.” For those wanting to an make a tax-deductible donation to their $10,000+ legal bill, you can do so directly via paypal to: centralhouse@gallae.com. Or you can contact them through their website.

Reclaiming Co-Founder Withdraws From Tradition: M. Macha NightMare (Aline O’Brien), a co-founder of the Reclaiming tradition, and co-author of “The Pagan Book of Living and Dying” with Starhawk, has announced on her blog that she is parting ways from the tradition she helped found, saying she “no longer feel[s] that its principles and practices accord” with her own.

M. Macha NightMare on the cover of the upcoming issue of Witches & Pagans.

M. Macha NightMare on the cover of the upcoming issue of Witches & Pagans (out in September).

“I have long felt alienated, estranged, and out of sync with how I’ve seen the tradition devolving. The incompatibilities between Reclaiming and me also trace to loose, undefined standards; lack of accountability; uncivil personal conduct and rude, disrespectful behavior without any restraint or consequences; lack of coherent theology; lack of intellectual rigor; and carelessness in ritual and other aspects of religious practice.” 

NightMare/O’Brien, who also serves on the board of Cherry Hill Seminary, is not the only prominent Reclaiming Witch to express discomfort with the tradition as it exists today, Anne Hill, who co-wrote “Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions,” declared herself “Remaining” in 2007 and that she is “staying connected on my own terms, choosing my battles, and letting the rest go.” What this development means for Reclaiming, and its development, is uncertain. What is certain is that an elder and co-founder publicly severing ties with a tradition they helped found is a call to reflection on how this state of affairs came to be.

New Alexandrian Library Raises Funds to Finish Construction: At the end of 2011 the New Alexandrian Library, a project that hopes to create “a library worthy of its namesake” focused on esoteric knowledge, mystical and the spiritual writings from many traditions, officially broke ground on their physical space in Delaware.  Last month the foundations for that library were poured for the dome structure that will be erected. Now, an IndieGoGo fundraiser has been launched to pay for the next stage of construction.

“The NAL will serve to support and advance serious academic study for new, non-mainstream, esoteric, ‘living’ religions that are most likely to be the guiding forces in guiding the Earth and Humans back to health and evolution of Spirit in the coming century. Like the original Great Library of Alexandria, the schools of Qabala in medieval Spain, and the flourishing of magick that occurred in renaissance Italy, the diverse confluence of minds and resources would result in great leaps forward in theory and practice. The NAL will be one of the cornerstones (of many created by various groups across the globe we hope!) of a new magickal renaissance. The benefits of this growing network for future generations will be incalculable.”

The goal is $12,500 by September 11th. So far NAL has raised $1345 towards that goal. The NAL project has already started building an impressive collection, one that includes the recent acquisition of rare Dion Fortune paintings gifted by Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki. As NAL board member Ivo Dominguez Jr says in the video above, this is a project initiated by us, for us, one that deserves our support so that it can become a reality. For more information check out their Facebook page, or go to their official website. You can read all of The Wild Hunt’s coverage of the New Alexandrian Library project, here.

Spiral Scouts Honor Eagle Scout Protest: Due to an ongoing policy of the Boy Scouts of America “not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals,” one recently affirmed by its leadership, a growing number of Eagle Scouts, the organization’s elite members (including Circle Sanctuary Minister  Bob Paxton), have been resigning their membership and sending back their badges and medals. Now, alternative scouting organization SpiralScouts International has announced that they are offering any Eagle Scout who returned their badges in protest their highest honors.

“SpiralScouts International respects the leadership, and responsibility demonstrated by these brave men, who have returned their Eagle Scout badges over this disagreement. We offer each of you the honorary status of ‘PathFinder’, and the Award of ‘Founder’ (our Eagle Scout Equivalent) within SpiralScouts. This is our highest rank, and as you have set forth to hold to the ideals of understanding, equality, and leadership, that we strive for within SSI, it would be our honor to extend this to you. Our program, which began in 1999, was developed to be as inclusive as possible in all areas: it features coed groups and leaders and is nondiscriminatory in all regards (sexual orientation, religion, gender). The program is available to all children, and we are happy to be able to offer this option for scouts.”

SpiralScouts International, which is a project of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, says that “although it cannot repair the hurt that has been caused, we hope this gesture lends support to those who are struggling, and helps us take a step forward into a future that embraces all of us as the sacred beings that each of us are.” Contact information for the SpiralScouts can be found, here.

That’s all I have for now! As always, if you have community news you’d like to share, please drop me a line.

A few quick news notes for you today.

Did Religious Conflict Play A Role? The News Tribune in Alaska reports on the retrial of Rachelle Waterman, accused of plotting the 2004 death of her mother with two older men when she was 16. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, and now the Ketchikan District Attorney is trying again with a second indictment. At issue in Waterman’s defense is whether she truly meant for the two men to kill her mother, and what her mental state was at the time she allegedly discussed having her mother killed. In recent testimony from the woman’s father, Carl “Doc” Waterman, he claims that there was religious conflict in the home.

“He said Lauri was stricter on Rachelle than he was on some things but he never saw any evidence she hit their daughter and Rachelle never told him about anything like that. Neither of them used physical punishment, Waterman said under questioning by prosecutor Jean Seaton of Sitka. Other witnesses have testified that Rachelle told them her mother tried to push her down the stairs, became angry if her grades slipped, and withheld food, telling her she was fat. Prosecutors say she told even more to Jason Arrant and Brian Radel, the men who carried out the killing. Lauri Waterman was a strict Catholic and was upset when Waterman began experimenting with Wicca, a pagan religion and form of witchcraft, Doc Waterman said.”

This case got a lot of Internet buzz when it first made the news in 2004, due to the fact that Waterman had (and still has) a LiveJournal account. Many noted that Waterman claimed to have been grounded over her interest in Wicca (among other things). Now it’s for the jury to decide if grown two men in their 20s (one of whom was dating Waterman) took the irrational rantings of a disgruntled teenager as mandate for murder, or if Waterman, as the prosecution attests, was the mastermind for the killing. I’ll keep you posted as this case develops.

Dan Halloran and the New York Snow Removal Controversy: The New York Times looks at the ongoing story regarding allegations that New York City sanitation workers staged a slowdown after the Dec. 26 blizzard. At the center of this story is New York City councilman (and out Heathen) Dan Halloran, who claims that sanitation workers came to his office and informed him of the planned slowdown (allegedly to embarrass Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg). But evidence has been hard to pin down, and Halloran currently risks professional embarrassment. Recently, Halloran has been softening his story as he nears giving testimony to a federal  grand jury.

In an article that appeared in The New York Post on Dec. 30, he said the workers had been told “to take off routes” and “not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner.” “They were told to make the mayor pay,” Mr. Halloran said in the article, “for the layoffs, the reductions in rank of the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank and file.” More recently, the councilman has said the workers were not explicitly told to take part in a slowdown, but were subtly informed there was no need to rush while clearing the snow.

The NYT piece runs down Halloran’s career so far, including his election as an out Theodsman, run-ins with parking enforcement, and recent bankruptcy and divorce proceedings. Halloran now says that his goal “was never to make headlines or anger people,” but that damage may already be done, and he could be forced to give up the names of those who came to him when he testifies. For more on Dan Halloran, check out this recent Pagan+Politics interview.

BBC and a Witch Queen: The Romanian witch tax story keeps on chugging along, this time the BBC interviews “Queen Witch” Mama Bratara, who has threatened to curse the lawmakers.

“Life for witches, astrologers and spiritual mediums in Romania has always been tough. Under the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, the supernatural industry was banned, and now witches say they are being hit again – this time by new tax laws. Once Ceausescu was ousted from power the witches re-emerged to carry on their craft. Their work has a considerable following, particularly in rural areas. Now the government has angered the witches again by making them register as self-employed and requiring them to pay tax, social security, and pension contributions.”

I recommend checking out the video embedded in the story, which gives an interesting look at the formidable Mama Bratara.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

A few quick news notes on this Sunday morning.

Predictions for a New Year: CNN’s Belief Blog asks various religious leaders for their “faith-based” 2011 predictions. Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox sees a growth of interfaith involvement for Wiccans and Pagans.

“More Wiccan ministers and other pagan leaders will be actively involved in interfaith organizations, conferences and initiatives in the United States and internationally. Interfaith endeavors will grow in importance in addressing ongoing needs in the world today as well as in responding to natural disasters and other tragedies.”

Most of the predictions are aspirational, though Pagans have made great strides in interfaith recently. CNN’s senior Vatican analyst John Allen Jr. predicts that “Christianophobia” will become a buzzword in 2011, though I’d argue variations on that theme have been popular for generations.

(Don’t) Legalize It: Romania has changed its labor laws to make witchcraft a legal profession, but the local witches and fortune-tellers aren’t lining up to thank the government for it.

“The move, which went into effect Saturday, is part of the government’s drive to crack down on widespread tax evasion in a country that is in recession. In addition to witches, astrologists, embalmers, valets and driving instructors are now considered by labor law to be working real jobs, making it harder for them to avoid income tax.”

One Romanian Witch has already stepped forward to threaten spells against the government, nor is this the first time Witches have fought back against government intervention into their affairs. In a country where mystical attacks are still taken seriously by politicians, the economy must be truly bad for them to move forward on this initiative. As for the Witches, they opposes legal recognition for the same reasons marijuana growers in California do, because it would hurt their bottom line.

Gaia is (coming) Alive! At a recent symposium in Sydney, Australian professor, scientist, and environmental activist Tim Flannery apparently had some interesting things to say about our Earth and the Gaia hypothesis.

Robyn Williams: So there you’ve got an image of the earth, the planet as a god, but also a very sophisticated and credible scientific idea.

Tim Flannery: That’s right. I was tempted in the book to simply give in and call it Earth System Science, because Gaia is earth system science and in many university departments around the world, as you’ll know, Robyn, earth system science is a very respectable science. But as soon as you mention Gaia of course, the scepticism comes out. I didn’t do that though, because I think there’s a certain elegance to Gaia, to that word and the concept, and also because I think that within this century the concept of the strong Gaia will actually become physically manifest. I do think that the Gaia of the Ancient Greeks, where they believed the earth was effectively one whole and perfect living creature, that doesn’t exist yet, but it will exist in future. That’s why I wanted to keep that word.

Robyn Williams: How will it exist in the future? Because an organism is one thing; the earth is complicated, but it is after all a lump of rock with iron in the middle and a veneer of living things outside, and a very thin atmosphere. It’s not an organism, so how is the feedback system such that it stabilises things, temperature anyway, like an organism?

Tim Flannery: That’s the great question. I must admit that as I wrote the book I was unable to come to a clear landing on the extent of Gaian control over the system, because much of the data is equivocal. I think that there is clear evidence for something that I call in the book geo-pheromones, which are elements within the earth system, which when present in very small amounts have very large outcomes, a bit like ant pheromones. But they often do multiple jobs. Some ant pheromones do as well, but many of them are specific. One of those is course carbon dioxide, a trace amount in the atmosphere, four parts per ten thousand is enough to keep the earth habitable. Ozone is another one present in just a few parts per billion. Human-made CFCs are yet another one. Atmospheric dust may well be another one. So these elements in the earth system have a profound impact on the system, and there is some evidence that there’s some sort of homeostasis established, if you want.

This theory that Earth/Gaia is becoming a unified living organism has incensed conservative journalist Tim Blair, who blasts the idea of a “sentient Frankenplanet spirit” and rips into James Lovelock, largely credited with popularizing the Gaia hypothesis, for good measure. Behind the sneers of “general occult weirdness” and “summoning of a dirt god” is the same fear of an environmental “green dragon” seen among American Christians, the over-zealous backlash against the idea that Christianity isn’t the only or final truth in this world.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

The State of Michigan, in a severe budget crisis, has approved an expansion of its 6% sales taxes on a number of previously un-taxed services.

“Starting Dec. 1, lift tickets at Michigan ski resorts will be taxed 6%. Fees to play golf or to bowl won’t. Personal fitness training will be taxed, too. Fitness centers won’t. The TV repair guy will charge tax. Cable and satellite providers won’t. Businesses will have to pay taxes on consulting, landscaping and janitorial services. But not for lawyers, lobbyists and accountants. Weird? Two lawmakers in the middle of final negotiations to extend the state’s 6% sales tax to many services as part of the solution for the state’s $1.75-billion budget deficit said they tried to focus on services not used by low and middle income people. But they acknowledge the result is muddy — produced by sleepy legislators in marathon, pressure-packed sessions last weekend aimed at avoiding or quickly ending a state government shutdown.”

Among the services “not used by low and middle income people” that made the list are fortune-telling, astrology, numerology, palm-reading, psychics, and phrenology. A situation that isn’t exactly thrilling local practitioners of such arts.

“Of course, I don’t want it. Nobody wants it,” said Okemos astrologer and psychic Lynne Crandall, who will pass along the bookkeeping work to her accountant. “But I’ll get in line with what I’m supposed to do.” Crandall, who writes an astrology column for NOISE, a weekly publication of the Lansing State Journal, said she knew Granholm would be forced to make some tough calls on taxes. The governor’s astrological chart showed she has a moon in the sign of Capricorn, she said, which means “financially, she’s a really tough cookie, and she would make sure all the bottom lines are covered.” “I just pray the state returns to some kind of financial health so we don’t have so many people leaving,” Crandall said.

Metaphysical shops in Michigan who offer psychic readings and other related services will also feel the pinch.

“Mona Lindsay, co-owner of Wisdom of the Ages in Howell, said she’s equally perplexed as to why psychic readings and the related services her business offers will be taxed. The business charges $35 for a 30-minute psychic reading, and the same amount for Tarot card readings. The tax comes to $2.10 per reading. “I thought that was just ridiculous. I was totally shocked when I was listening to the news yesterday morning that that stuff would even be taxable,” Lindsay said. Lindsay said she didn’t think that amount of service tax will boost Michigan’s overall tax base. She said she’ll be meeting with her business partner to re-examine how they charge for readings.”

Defenders of the tax expansion say that they are only taxing “nonessential” services used primarily by high-income people. However, anyone who has met or frequented tarot or psychic practitioners know that these fields are filled with lower- and middle-income people catering to those of similar socioeconomic backgrounds. Services that are used often by the upper classes, like country clubs, lawyers, licensed stockbrokers, lobbyists and accountants are immune to the new tax expansion. Much of the list defines services that legislators apparently feel people shouldn’t use. Despite the claims of defenders, this expanded list is regressive in nature and doesn’t really increase the tax burden of the rich.