A bill expanding tax exemptions for churches passed the Arizona Legislature yesterday, and could cost the state $2.1 million in lost revenue.
The bill, House Bill 2281, is also the third bill pushed by the Center for Arizona Police that legislators have passed this session. Others include the notorious anti-gay Senate Bill 1062, and HB 2284, which allows for the state health department to search abortion clinics without a warrant.
After the veto of SB 1062 a couple months ago, some people speculated that the Center for Arizona Policy, a Religious Right organization with a lot of sway at the capitol, would kind of ease up on its agenda. That hasn't happened.
In her veto speech, Governor Jan Brewer said the bill wasn't one of her legislative priorities. Abortion restrictions and tax exemptions for churches aren't part of her legislative priorities either, but Brewer has since signed the abortion bill, and the tax-exemption bill is now on her desk.
This tax-exemption bill calls for property leased to a religious group, and used primarily for religious worship, would have their property tax assessment ratio lowered from 18.5 percent down to 1 percent.
Since local property taxes help pay for the public-education system, and the state has to cover the cost when property taxes aren't enough under the funding formula, the legislative budget staff estimates this legislation could cost the state as much as $2.1 million, starting in 2016.
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The bill barely passed the Senate yesterday, on a 16-14 vote. One Democrat voted for the bill, and two voted against it.
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