Bill lets local governments decide filing requirements for exemption

Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Senior citizens wouldn't have to file every year for a property tax exemption under a bill that passed the House on Monday.

Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, introduced the measure after an elderly woman in his district lost her home because she didn't realize she needed to file for the exemption annually.

After word of her plight spread, a local man stepped in and paid her taxes for her.

The local government had no authority to give her a break because under state law the exemption has to be applied for annually, Whitaker said. State law requires local governments to give senior citizens and disabled veterans the exemption on the first $150,000 of their home's value.

Whitaker's bill would leave the decision on how often citizens have to file for the tax break up to the local government.

Rep. Scott Ogan, R-Palmer, said he expects the bill will save money because it will save on paperwork, but he wondered if it needed to include a requirement that local governments be notified if the property passes from the senior citizens' hands.

A committee discussed that issue and decided to let local governments decide how to police that, Whitaker said.

Minority Democrats tried to amend the bill to include a statement that the Legislature intends to fully reimburse municipalities for the cost of the exemption since state law requires them to provide it. Currently the state doesn't do that.

''This is just an effort to say it's time we step back up to the plate and fund these exemptions,'' said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau.

Other representatives objected to the financial burden that would place on the state, and Whitaker said, while the issue's worth debating, he didn't want it added to his bill.

''It is, to put it plainly, a deal killer in regards to this bill,'' Whitaker said.

The amendment failed 10-25. The bill itself passed 35-0. It now goes to the Senate.

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