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HomeNewsArchivesV.I. Property-Tax Bill Passes U.S. Senate

V.I. Property-Tax Bill Passes U.S. Senate

June 12, 2007 — The U.S. Senate overcame a months-old parliamentary hurdle and passed, on unanimous consent, a bill sponsored by Delegate Donna M. Christensen that repeals a 1936 federal law limiting the authority of the V.I. government to administer its own property-tax system, according to a Government House news release.
The bill, which passed the House of Representatives last January, now goes to the president for his signature.
The bill had been held up by a U.S. senator who had put a “legislative hold” on all bills reported by the Senate Energy Committee, including the V.I. property-tax bill, the news release said. The senator agreed to release his hold on the bill after the Senate leadership agreed to separate the V.I. bill from the other Senate Energy Committee bills that prompted the hold, the release said.
Both Gov. John P. deJongh Jr. and Christensen lobbied the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), and the committee's ranking member, Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), on the need for quick action on the bill in this session of Congress.
“Without congressional repeal of the colonial-era statute, the local government would continue to operate under a court injunction which limits its authority to assess and collect real property taxes in the Territory,” deJongh said Tuesday, according to the news release.
"The 1936 statute, resurrected by the U.S. District Court for the Virgin Islands in an earlier action by several property owners, prevents the government from exercising authority, enjoyed by all other states and territories, to tax real property at different rates, depending on the type or use of the property," the news release said. "For example, the district court relied on the 1936 statute to overturn the territory’s 10-percent cap on increases in residential property tax assessments during any assessment period — a practice used by many local governments on the mainland to protect homeowners from soaring property values."
Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis whose office oversees property assessment and taxation, heralded the bill’s passage Tuesday, saying his office is prepared to follow the mandate of the legislation. “The measure has a far-reaching impact on the Virgin Islands property-tax system,” Francis said.
The governor said the bill will bring flexibility to the system.
“This bill, when finally signed into law, will provide the government with the authority required to protect homeownership in the Virgin Islands, and the flexibility needed to fairly administer our property-tax laws,” deJongh said, according to the news release.
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