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Senior tax break also tax transfer

Posted: January 23, 2014 - 9:31am

With all due respect to Peter Zuyus, I find his letter  to the editor (Jan. 16) about a proposal to limit the senior property tax exemption to be, at the very least, mean-spirited. 

Speaking as an official “senior” who enjoys the property tax exemption, I nevertheless recognize that there is a legitimate argument about how large a  tax break we seniors deserve just by virtue of aging. Labeling anyone — including Mayor Navarre and certain council members — as guilty of “disdain,” “arrogance,” “jealousy” and “disregard” just because they’re raising the issue, certainly doesn’t do much for civil discourse. 

No matter how you slice it, my tax break also is a tax transfer. Someone is going to pick up the tab for schools, fire, garbage, hospitals, road service, libraries, etc., etc.  Some of this cost is covered by sales tax, which is a regressive tax but at least spreads the pain, but most is covered by property taxes. 

In the old days (pre-Zobel, which shows how long I’ve lived in Alaska), not only the Permanent Fund but also tax exemptions could be tied to length of  residency. And if that were the case, I might feel differently. “We worked to build this state and community — we deserve a break!” 

But length of residency is no longer a requirement.  Instead, any California (or wherever) retiree who loves fishing, can afford a half-million dollar house on the bluff and knows a sweet deal when he sees it, can move up here and live tax-free. 

Does that make sense? Is that fair? 

I am wholly in Mayor Navarre’s and Milli Martin’s (another senior; is she guilty of “disdain,” “arrogance,” “jealousy” and “disregard”?) camp on this one. We need a reasonable ($300,000 seems fair to me) limit on property tax exemptions, with exceptions for seniors who are land rich and cash poor, and who, often, are the real pioneers deserving of a break.

I don’t buy the argument that just because I’ve lived in Alaska for 40 years and have lived to be 65 that I no longer have an obligation to help share the burden for the services that I use and value. 

Marylou Burton

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kearbear 01/24/14 - 07:06 pm
Raising the issue? They took a Vote!

Raising the issue? Civil discourse? The Assembly took a vote! Senior exemptions are a valuable tool to attract Seniors to build or stay on the Kenai Peninsula. Without the exemption, Seniors would not choose to relocate here from other parts of the State or be attracted to relocate here from other parts of the country to retire. Most Seniors are cash poor, whether they are land rich or living on Social Security. Many Seniors supplement their income through reverse mortgages which means that they are spending their equity and life savings here in Alaska, not out of State. Mayor Navarre and Milli Martin are completely wrong on this issue as are you Marylou Burton. Incentives keep people in the State. Without this incentive most Seniors will move out and take their life savings with them to be spent elsewhere. Keep them here. They spend down their estate and create jobs and opportunity for Alaskans.

Your commentary seems to contradict itself as you argue against and then for the Senior exemption. Your commentary about preferential treatment based on years of residency rings hollow also. As everyone knows, the United States Supreme Court ruled that preferential treatment like that is unconstitutional.

Every Senior in the State of Alaska, regardless of which borough they reside in, receives a Senior exemption of $150,000. All boroughs offer exemptions of varying amounts to all residents. The recent citizen initiative voted to give all KPB residents an increased exemption from $20,000 to $50,000. All residents are entitled to this exemption. The Assembly was attempting to deny Seniors from claiming the increased residential exemption that all residents are entitled to. This would be an outrage and discrimination against Seniors. The Senior exemption is capped at $300,000. The Assembly was attempting to lower that to $250,000 in order to block Seniors from participating in the new residential exemption. The end goal was to raise Seniors taxes. Now that is what I call mean spirited.

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