By Sophia Boyd-Fliegel
Jackson Hole Daily
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
JACKSON — Wyoming lawmakers in the House passed two bills Thursday to expand property tax relief programs.
The votes came in the wake of a year when many homeowners across the state saw double-digit property tax rate increases.
Fetching unanimous House approval were amendments expanding the state and counties’ property tax relief programs.The state program received 3,000 more applications in 2021 than in 2019, according to the Department of Revenue.
The bill would raise the income bar to qualify for a refund from those making 75% of median gross household income in their county or the state, whichever is greater, to 125%. The bill would raise the cap on assets other than a home, car and savings to $150,000 from about $133,000.
The refund limit would also increase from one half of the applicant’s prior year’s property tax to 90%, almost a full refund.
The state has set aside about $6.2 million for the program in the next fiscal year alone.
In a moment of unity, Reps. Liz Storer, a Teton County Democrat, and Rep. John Bear, a Campbell County Republican, amended the bill to include in the tax relief eligibility pool people whose property taxes are greater than 10% of their household income, a tool used in 18 other states, Storer said.
Bear is the chairman of the ultraconservative Wyoming Freedom Caucus, and Storer is a progressive liberal.
“This might be a shocking moment for this body,” Bear said on the floor, letting out a chuckle.
Storer said she brought the amendment because it targeted people who had saved for retirement but still couldn’t afford their bills. Bear said he thought it would help local business owners.
On top of House Bill 99-Property tax refund program, another $200,000 would be appropriated through a different bill that passed the House on Thursday.
House Bill 121-Property tax deferral program is aimed at letting people pay back over time — or defer — up to half of their property taxes.
Counties were already allowed to create such a deferral program but many didn’t — besides Teton — because it’s the county’s duty to finance a tax lien and make rules for the program. HB 121 moves the burden of the program from counties to the state’s Department of Revenue.
Those who qualify would be those who are disabled, those who are over the age of 62, people who have owned their home for more than 10 years and, now, veterans.
The bills still need to pass the Senate and be signed by the governor.