29 April 2013

Committee action, Apr. 29: HB 576, HB 331, HB 162

HB 576 by Rep. Chris Broadwater would create a special statewide taxing district that would use a state property tax, approved by voters, with funding dedicated to higher education academic operations, run by higher education management boards. It pegs the amount to general funding, where it is not supposed to compensate for reductions in state support. The homestead exemption would apply. He offered up an amendment that said these votes could happen only when at least another statewide election was on the ballot, and the House Ways and Means Committee adopted it without objection.

He defended against the notion that it was a tax increase by saying it simply created a choice. Opponent Tim Barfield of the Department of Revenue said it would allow one part of the state to impose on another even if they have very divergent views on the tax, and it disproportionately affects those on fixed incomes. Broadwater tried to draw an analogy between statewide elections for taxation and that of U.S. Senators, and that the fixed income argument was different. He noted that a few taxing districts had been created in the past couple of years – but all examples given were local.

He moved to report, which received objection, and it failed 6-11, most favorable votes coming from Democrats.

HB 331 by Rep. Hunter Greene would amend the Constitution to tax the first $10,000 in value on a property, the next $75,000 taxed exempted, and the remainder not, for those government entities to which to an exemption would apply. Greene argued that this more fairly would spread around the tax burden instead of foisting most on business, which then passes it along.

Rep. Regina Barrow said that without revisiting taxation in general that it would be premature to go with this. Greene argued it presented the choice to voters to head in this direction, and passage would help out local governments. Rep. Laura Stokes wondered what municipalities thought of this and how it would affect revenue sharing; Greene said he didn’t know and that revenue sharing always could be cut back. But as Rep. Eddie Lambert pointed out, he thought the fiscal note implied revenue sharing could be cut back $40 million.

Barrow moved to defer involuntarily the bill, which was objected to. A 9-9 tie vote defeated this motion. Greene then said he’d voluntarily defer but said he’d appreciate a motion to pass, which Rep. Wesley Bishop provided. The mirror image of the previous vote occurred, which thereby prevented its approval.

HB 162 by Rep. Kevin Pearson would amend the Constitution to increase the notification period for a local government to notify that it was going to roll forward tax rates, which otherwise automatically would fall back after a reassessment, and allow a 10-year period after the authorization of a maximum rate in which to do it. He said too much rolling forward occurs because of perceived future need, not present need, and this bill would give bodies a chance to hold off without losing a future chance to roll forward. After technical amendments were adopted, Broadwater noted the ballot language needed some work.

With a motion to report favorably, it was without objection.

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