Home Editorials Effort to Make Property Tax Exemptions Bill More Inclusive

Effort to Make Property Tax Exemptions Bill More Inclusive

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Among the flurry of bills passing through the Alaska State Legislature yesterday as the session nears end was Anchorage Republican Senator Kevin Meyer’s Senate Bill 73.
Under current law, municipalities have the right to pass ordinances granting property tax exemptions to seniors, disabled veterans, and their widows/widowers.
However, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made this an archetypal scenario that needs updating. Today’s spouses of fallen heroes are often much younger and, therefor, ineligible for the tax assistance.
Meyer’s SB73 would extend the ability of municipalities to vote approval of the tax exemption and extend it to widows or widowers “of a person who dies from a service-connected cause sustained while serving as a member of the United States armed forces or as a member of the National Guard.”
Each municipality would decide eligibility requirements if they chose to enact the exemption and would have to be approved by the voters, as Anchorage did last year by a wide margin.
When the measure reached the floor, Senator Hollis French (D-West Anchorage) noted an omission that needed to be corrected in the wake of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’s repeal. The military now recognizes same-sex partnerships and is, likewise, integrated to include LGBT servicemen and women. However this bill does not extend the same recognition. French sought to amend it to do so by inserting the phrase “or committed financially interdependent same-sex couple” after the term “spouse.”
The amendment failed by a vote of 12-7, though Republican Senator Lesil McGuire broke party ranks to support the attempt. Senator Meyer called it “presumptive,” and recommended the courts work it out before adjusting state policy.
The bill, however, is not immune from another attempt to adopt the more inclusive language. SB73 now heads to the House, where the Community and Regional Affairs committee will hear it Saturday morning at 8am. That particular committee happens to be the only standing committee with a Democratic majority, albeit a slim 4-3. Representative Nageak, however, experienced chest pains during a late night session on Thursday and was medevaced to Anchorage. Thankfully, he is described as now recovering.
If a second attempt to incorporate the amendment into the bill is to succeed, one of the majority members will need to be convinced to cross over.