News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Fire relief bill stalled in House

A bill that would have provided property tax relief for fire survivors seems unlikely to pass the Oregon House of Representatives amid concerns over the constitutionality of the proposal.

Senate Bill 1012 would have frozen assessed values to pre-fire levels for qualifying homes rebuilt after the Labor Day fires of 2020.

The bill was approved with unanimous bipartisan support in the Senate April 12 and assigned to the House Committee on Revenue. The committee held a public hearing May 4 and there has been no legislative action since.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Jami Cate (R-Lebanon) said she believes SB 1012 and similar proposals will not overcome “unresolved concerns” before the end of the legislative session June 25.

“None of the tax relief bills for wildfire victims will be moving forward this session,” she predicted.

Cate said some committee members were unclear on whether or not SB 1012 would violate the state’s constitutionally-defined property tax system. She said this was unexpected because, when the bill was reviewed in the Senate, attorneys said the mechanisms involved would be allowable.

Under current property tax rules, assessed value cannot increase more than 3 percent annually for existing homes, but this does not apply to new or rebuilt homes. SB 1012 would circumvent this by allowing county governments to charge property taxes to qualifying homeowners based on assessed values recorded during the 2020-2021 tax year.

Cate said she was unable to receive greater details about the concerns that drove the committee to this decision. 

The fate of the bill was not affected by a recent Republican-led walkout of the Senate as SB 1012 was already approved by the Senate when the walkout began May 3.

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