Power Alley is about what goes on in key legislative committees where legislation is crafted before voted on by the full House and Senate. This Power Alley profiles a property tax cost shift from one set of property tax payers to another by the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees.
Income sensitivity is zero sum. The property tax subsidies given to eligible taxpayers are paid for by higher property taxes on others. The current cost of the program is $166.3 million. Simply put, non-residential property owners and those not eligible for income sensitivity pay $166.3 million more in taxes, allowing those who are eligible to pay $166.3 million less. For a sense of scale, this 2010 Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study of property tax relief programs in New England shows that Vermont, by far, spends more than all other New England states combined. (See page 26)
Kenyon Langley Property Tax Relief
The change in law was little noticed until this observation in a recent VTDigger state house article.
“Outside the House chamber, Rep Heidi Scheuermann was a little stunned looking at a state tax form. She said “income sensitivity” now extends to households with incomes as high as $137,500. (Rep.) Ancel explained the Legislature made the change last year with the intent to have that benefit decrease gradually, like a slope, instead of ending at a certain income level like a cliff. There’s so little benefit at that high-income level, she said, it may not be even worth applying. Scheuermann thought it sent a bad message.”
The fact is that income sensitivity has for years incorporated a benefit that decreases gradually from the full benefit level of $90,000. For tax year 2008, the slope ranged from $90,000 to $97,000. By 2014 it had extended to $109,000, a 2% annual increase. But, for 2015, the current tax season, it jumped by 26% to $137,500. (See Section B of these 2014 and 2015 tax forms)
The increases prior to 2015 were due to underlying economic factors built into the law. However, the major increase for 2015 was due to a simple, though expensive, one line change tucked deep in H.884, a miscellaneous tax bill. (See section 64)
Draft Bill H.884
The two key committees sponsoring H. 884 were House Ways and Means and Senate Finance. These two Power Alleys profile their respective votes on H.884.
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