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Property Tax Bill Stalled in Congress, Delegate Says

Dec. 7, 2007 — While Delegate Donna M. Christensen initially hoped that a bill to give the territory the right to set its own tax policy would make it through the U.S. Congress, it now doesn't seem likely.
"It's very unlikely it will get through the Senate before we get out of here," Christensen aide Brian Modeste said Thursday.
If the bill made it through the U.S. House of Representatives without any other bills being attached, Modeste said it wouldn't have to go back to the U.S. Senate for approval.
However, Modeste said three unrelated bills were added Wednesday to the package, so it now needs to go back to the U.S. Senate for approval because senators initially passed a version of the bill before the House took up the matter.
He said it's possible, but unlikely the senators would OK the bill package.
He said those added bills concerned a National Park Service study, the National Historic Preservation act and a waste reclamation matter.
In her press release announcing that the bill was going to the floor, Christensen said the bill was necessary because property owners, particularly those on St. John, face big tax increases once the property revaluation is completed.
Modeste said those living in modest houses in high-end neighborhoods would really feel the bite.
Christensen's bill would repeal a 1936 federal law that limits the ability of local legislators to provide tax relief. The need for a change in the law came to light in 2004 when U.S. District Judge Thomas K. Moore ruled, in a suit regarding commercial property taxes, that the 1936 law was still valid. The law mandates that the government assess real estate based on market value, rather than replacement cost, and to tax all properties at the same rate regardless of whether they were used for residential or commercial purposes.
Modeste said the delegate will try again to get the bill through when the new Congress gets under way in January.
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