Tax Equity for Churches Has Big Government Gang Crying Foul

Denver -- Colorado Senate Democrats on Thursday rebelled against a common sense tax code tweak authored by Littleton Republican Tim Neville, claiming that local governments might wither-up and blow away, for lack of funding, if churches that lease space get the same tax exemption that churches which own facilities do.

Neville’s bill, SB-70, narrowly cleared the Senate on an 18-17 vote, sending it to the House for debate. But not before generating more controversy among Democrats than he imagined it would when he introduced it as a simple tax equity bill.   

“All Senate Bill 70 does is treat all Colorado churches fairly, big or small, by letting houses of worship that operate in leased space get the same tax exemption other churches and non-profits do,” said Neville. “But Democrats apparently see tax fairness for churches as some plot to break the backs of local  governments, by depriving them of dollars they’re entitled to, which just shows you where their priorities are.”

Current state law makes property that is "owned and used solely and exclusively for religious purposes" tax exempt. This would change that language to assert that "property that is used solely and exclusively for religious purposes" is exempt. That means a church does not have to own a property, but can lease it and still qualify for an exemption.

The Senator expressed surprise that the proposal would generate such push-back.

Not every church is fortunate enough to own space, Neville told colleagues, so some lease space. And they ought to be treated like any other church is. Neville scoffed at the notion that governments won’t survive without those dollars. “I’m sure local governments will find some way to survive the small revenue declines that may result if this tax code inequity is corrected, contrary to the ‘poor government’ sob stories we heard from Democrats today.”

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