Nixon plugs property tax cut plan for senior citizens

Monday, January 7, 2008 | 9:28 p.m. CST; updated 8:20 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

HAZELWOOD — Attorney General Jay Nixon detailed a plan Monday to provide property tax relief to thousands of Missouri senior citizens, as he downplayed Republican efforts to address the issue.

The Democratic candidate for governor said changes he supports would allow about 65,000 more people, particularly seniors, to qualify for state income tax breaks to offset their property tax payments. He supports raising the amounts people can earn and still qualify for a tax credit and increasing the size of the credit.

Democratic Rep. Clint Zweifel of Florissant appeared with Nixon at a news conference in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood. He said he is filing a bill proposing the changes this week.

Currently, a taxpayer in Missouri qualifies for the state’s property tax credit program if he or she earns up to $27,500 annually. However, married couples are eligible if their joint income is up to $29,500, just $2,000 more.

Nixon and Zweifel call that a “property tax marriage penalty.” Under the proposed plan, the maximum salary for a single taxpayer would increase to $32,000 and a married couple could make up to $52,000 to qualify for a credit. The top tax credit in the program would increase from $750 to $1000.

They said the plan is designed to particularly help senior citizens, because the way the program is set up hurts median-income, married senior citizens the most.

Property tax relief is expected to be a hot topic this legislative session. Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, is sponsoring legislation to change the way property tax rollbacks are calculated and increase the tax credit available to seniors and the disabled up to $1,100.

Rep. Mike Sutherland, R-Warrenton, also has filed a version to raise the maximum tax credit to $800 for individuals earning up to $32,500 a year and couples earning up to $36,500.

Zweifel said the proposals he and Nixon are backing could cost Missouri about $35 million to $50 million annually.

Frank Penn, 67, of Hazelwood said after the Nixon news conference that he considers Missouri’s property tax credit programs to be just bandages on the much larger problem of homeowners struggling to keep up with their property taxes.

He paid $17,890 for his home in 1966. Today, the former McDonnell Douglas employee and retiree said he pays more than $2,000 annually in property taxes.

He wants property taxes to be capped for senior citizens and doesn’t believe property tax credits provided the solution.

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