When the Legislature reconvenes early next, lawmakers are poised to consider several bills related to Mainers’ property taxes.
According to Wallet Hub — a personal finance website — Mainers have the highest property tax burden nationwide, coming in at 5.33 percent of personal income.
Recently, several cities and towns throughout the state have announced their intentions to raise residents’ property taxes, primarily as a direct result of increased municipal and local school spending.
Earlier this month, the Legislative Council approved requests from three Democrat lawmakers to introduce property tax-related bills during the next session.
Two bills introduced by Republican lawmakers last session concerning property taxes were carried over, meaning that legislators will be picking these back up when they reconvene.
New Bills Approved by Legislative Council
An Act Regard the Property Value Reassessment Process, introduced by Rep. Daniel J. Ankeles (D-Brunswick), was approved along party lines by the Legislative Council during their first round of voting.
All the Democrat members of the Council voted in favor of Rep. Ankeles’ bill, while all present Republican members were unanimously in opposition. Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) was absent at the time the vote was taken.
According to Ankeles’ statement to the Legislative Council, “this bill would address property tax value reassessment, including reassessments of mobile homes and working waterfronts as well as the data used in the reassessments.”
As of now, the bills approved by the Council are only working titles, meaning that there is little information available regarding the specific policy changes that would be wrought if the legislation were to be approved.
An Act to Accelerate the Production of Housing and Strengthen the Maine Historic Property Rehabilitation Tax Credit, introduced by Sen. Peggy Rotundo (D-Androscoggin), also passed 7-2 during the Legislative Council’s first round of voting.
Sen. Trey Stewart (R-Aroostook) voted in favor of the proposal alongside all the Democrat members of the Council.
“This bill would increase the maximum tax credit allowed for certified historic property
rehabilitation projects,” Sen. Rotundo said in her statement to the Legislative Council. “It would also allow nonprofits that claim the historic preservation tax credit or the affordable housing tax credit to file their refund claims on a calendar year basis.”
An Act to Provide Property Tax Relief, introduced by Rep. Ronald B. Russell (D-Verona Island), would achieve its stated goal by amending the property tax fairness credit.
The property tax fairness credit is a state program that allows homeowners or renters in Maine to receive a portion of the amount they paid as a credit on their state tax return, regardless of whether or not they owe state income tax or not.
“This bill would amend the property tax fairness credit to provide increased property tax
relief,” Rep. Russell wrote to the Legislative Council, offering few details about what changes his bill would ultimately enact upon the existing program.
Members of the Council initially voted down the bill, with only Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland), Rep. Maureen Fitzgerald Terry (D-Gorham), and Rep. Kristen Cloutier (D-Lewiston) supporting the legislation.
Russell then moved to appeal the Council’s decision, explaining in a letter to the Council that he has “recently held in-district meetings with older constituents to discuss property tax relief, and during those meetings, there has been a universal outcry of their struggles to get by.”
“In my committee, Labor and Housing,” Russell wrote, “we heard countless stories of battered pensions, rising costs and the burden on seniors struggling to stay in their homes.”
Upon appeal, the Council voted along partisan lines to allow his bill to be considered by the full legislature during their session early next year.
Bills Carried Over from First Session
LD 1335 — An Act to Amend the Property Tax Stabilization for Senior Citizens Law — was introduced last session by Rep. David W. Boyer Jr. (R-Poland) and sought to make changes to the laws governing the homestead stabilization program for senior citizens.
More specifically, this bill would (1) prohibit married couples from claiming the homestead exemption on two properties and (2) allow properties held by a trust to be eligible for stabilization.
During the public hearing for this legislation, the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) testified that the changes would ultimately result in an increased price tag for an already-expensive program.
“The expense of the current program is too large of a financial burden as it is,” the MMA wrote. “Further increasing the program’s price tag is of great concern.”
The Property Tax Stabilization for Senior Citizens program to which this proposed legislation would have applied was repealed by lawmakers this summer, essentially nullifying the intended purpose of this bill.
LD 1737 — An Act to Provide Up to $5,000 in Property Tax Relief to Veterans — was introduced by Rep. Benjamin C. Hymes (R-Waldo) and aims to provide more substantial property tax relief for Maine’s veterans.
According to testimony provided by Rep. Hymes before the Committee on Taxation, state law as written results in veterans receiving only a few dollars worth of relief.
The way the law is currently constructed, Hymes explains, is that $6,000 is subtracted from the property’s assessed value — meaning that if an eligible veteran owns a home assessed at $300,000, he would pay property taxes on $294,0000.
LD 1737 would change this such that eligible veterans would receive up to $5,000 off their final property tax bill.
Note — This article has been updated to clarify that the Property Tax Stabilization Program for Senior Citizens was repealed by lawmakers this past summer.