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Spilka Hopes to Give Taxpayers A Break

July 21, 2009
Spilka Hopes to Give Taxpayers A Break
MetroWest Daily News
Michael Morton
July 21, 2009

Seeking to provide some pocketbook relief during hard times, state Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, will testify this morning about her bill allowing homeowners to deduct water, sewer and trash payments from state income taxes.

The proposal, under consideration by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue, would only apply to primary residences, but could potentially save many residents several hundreds of dollars a year.

Spilka said she proposed the legislation to provide financial relief to those burdened by property taxes, and to encourage residents to pay their water, sewer and trash fees – charges municipalities have found increasingly hard to collect as the economy has worsened.

“It would be an incentive for people to pay these bills,” Spilka said, since homeowners would need to provide proof to claim the deductions. “I think we need to take a look at ways we can help folks and help communities.”

However, Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said there are other tools for municipalities to collect late payments, such as tax liens, with Spilka’s bill coming at an inopportune time.

“The problem with the proposal is Massachusetts is in desperate financial straits and is cutting local aid because of that,” he said, adding that the economic challenges are likely to continue into the next budget cycle. “We can ill afford to lose additional tax revenue.”

Widmer said some residents could actually be hurt in the long run by the proposal because of further service cuts resulting from loss of revenue, with towns and cities also relying on local aid to temper reliance on property taxes.

“This is certainly not the time we should do this,” Widmer said.

Spilka said she is aware of the possible budget impact and has asked the Department of Revenue to estimate how much annual revenue could be lost by the legislation. Her bill has a number of co-sponsors, including Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick; Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton; and Richard Ross, R-Wrentham.

(Michael Morton can be reached at 508-626-4338 or mmorton@cnc.com.)

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