House resolution aims to provide tax relief to seniors
BY OLIVIA SKLENKA
Missouri News Network
JEFFERSON CITY — A resolution that would freeze assessed valuation increases for eligible senior citizens was met with resounding public support in a House hearing Tuesday.
Proposed by Rep. Ben Keathley, R-Chesterfield, the resolution heard by the Special Committee on Tax Reform aims to provide tax relief for Missouri’s seniors.
This was a change welcomed by six members of the public who spoke in favor of HJR 45, while none spoke against the resolution.
“For many Missourians, especially for many middle-class Missourians, a home is their biggest investment and the most important asset that they have,” Keathley said. “Unlike stocks and securities, these middle-class Missourians pay increased taxes year after year as the value of their home goes up, despite whether they buy or sell the home.”
Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, applauded Keathley’s bill for being reflective of “good government.”
“I don’t think that, for a long time, the government has really had to answer that question: Are we really taking what’s necessary or are we taking a lot more than necessary?” Richey said.
Richey emphasized that government bodies “don’t have a right to the fruit of your labor any more than is absolutely necessary to provide the essential services that the governmental body that has taxing authority over you is there to oversee.”
Keathley shared the story of his 90-year-old neighbor, who has lived in the same home she built in the 1970s. He said it’s a place she built to be more than a house, it’s a place she built a life raising her children.
“She told me she built her house in Chesterfield for around $50,000,” Keathley said. “I’ve done the math on that and it means that Jenny has paid more in property tax to St. Louis County and to the local political subdivisions from the day she retired than she paid to build the house.”
Keathley said the majority of Missouri’s seniors are done earning and are on Social Security, which does not increase as quickly as other wages and income. He said that people don’t have the income to pay for tax value increases when they have a fixed income.
“It’s a small measure we can do, but it will have a meaningful impact on a segment of our population that needs this kind of tax relief the most,” Rep. Keathley said. “It’ll have the also added benefit for all of us of making sure that we’re encouraging longtime homeownership in our communities by not forcing people out of their homes.”
While the hearing did not have any witnesses oppose HJR 45, Keathley and Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, engaged in a debate regarding the application of the resolution.
“If one person’s tax goes down or their assessment goes down, it ultimately means everyone else in that county is going to end up paying more to make up for that,” Merideth said.
Merideth said he believes messing with the entire mechanism by which everybody is taxed in a local community would create more complex scenarios than what it’s worth.
“I do agree with you that it’s a real problem, I would just prefer to look at things like the homestead and putting that back into law or expanding the circuit breaker,” Merideth said. “I think honestly that alone would address a huge portion of the folks we’re talking about here that really struggle with these changing property tax rates.”
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