The legislation would have increased the amount of their homestead exemption.
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Legislation designed to provide some elderly and disabled a break on their property taxes died Tuesday.
House Ways and Means Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, opted not to take up the legislation passed by the Senate. Lt Gov. Phil Bryant was one of the main proponents of the proposal.
Watson said he had too many questions about the complex local tax issue to pass it at this point. Tuesday was the deadline for the legislation to be passed by the Ways and Means Committee.
The committee met Tuesday afternoon on another issue, and some members asked Watson if he was going to take up the proposal. Members wanting him to consider the issue before Tuesday’s deadline tried to keep him from adjourning the committee, but failed on a 12-6 vote.
“It is a shame the House Democratic leadership killed legislation aimed at helping our seniors,” Bryant said in a prepared statement. “The increase in homestead exemption would have eased the burden of higher taxes on many of our seniors and disabled who are on fixed incomes.”
Watson did not rule out the possibility of supporting a rules suspension – which would require a two-thirds vote – to revive the issue later in the process if he is able to glean more information. But many members expressed concern that while the legislation would provide tax relief for some elderly property owners, it might result in a tax increase for many others to make up for local governments’ lost revenue.
“It will be a shift” in taxes, said Derrick Surrette, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors.
The legislation, as passed by the Senate, would exempt those over 65 and the disabled from taxes on the first $100,000 of their property, as opposed to the current $75,000 level. Under the bill, an elderly person who owns a $150,000 home would have to pay taxes on only $50,000.
The bill was championed after many counties, including Lee, conducted mandatory property reappraisals and property values went up.
Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn, said he supported the legislation because reappraisal caused home values of many elderly residents to exceed $75,000 for the first time, resulting in them having to pay property taxes.