Proposed Tax Break for Religious Groups Protested at Arizona Capitol

Proposed Tax Break for Religious Groups Protested at Arizona Capitol
Matthew Hendley

Despite the rain, demonstrators took to the state capitol today to protest a proposed tax break for certain religious groups.

The bill, pushed by the notorious Center for Arizona Policy, was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer after it was passed by lawmakers last year. The House of Representatives already passed the bill this year, perhaps counting on a more favorable reception from the new governor.

See also: -Arizona House Passes New Tax Break for Religious Groups

The legislation, House Bill 2128 creates a property-tax exemption for religious groups that lease their places of worship.

According to an analysis prepared by budget staff at the Legislature, this bill could cost the state up to $2.1 million starting in 2017.

Last year's bill narrowly passed the Senate, on a 16-14 vote.

Tory Anderson, a lobbyist for the Secular Coalition for Arizona -- the group that was protesting today -- told New Times today that she believes one of the senators who voted for the bill last year will be voting against it this year, so passage of this bill might not be a sure thing.

The main argument from many opposed to the bill is that if such a tax exemption exists, it should also apply to charities that rent their spaces, and there's no plan to extend that tax break.

Anderson says there are only a few states that have such exemptions for rented churches and charity spaces, but Arizona would become the only state that specifically allows a tax break for churches leasing property.

If the Senate does pass the bill, it would be up to Governor Doug Ducey, who's no stranger to the force behind the bill, the Center for Arizona Policy. Ducey had Center for Arizona Policy president Cathi Herrod as one of his "policy advisers" during his run for governor, although he had to distance himself from her to an extent after the group's SB 1062 -- which was perceived by many to be an anti-gay bill -- caused a national uproar.

Ducey's family foundation has donated money to the organization, and Ducey also headlined a Center for Arizona Policy event at the capitol last month.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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