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HomeNewsArchivesCongress Finally Passes V.I. Property-Tax Exemption Law

Congress Finally Passes V.I. Property-Tax Exemption Law

June 29, 2007 — After spending years in Congress, a bill allowing the V.I. government to grant property-tax exemptions to local residents was finally signed into law Friday by President George W. Bush.
The bill had undergone an "epic saga" on its way to the president's desk, having been stalled at least twice since it was first introduced in late 2002, said Delegate Donna M. Christensen Friday evening. Attempts to reintroduce the bill earlier this year were successful, as it moved quickly out of the House's Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Bundled together with a large set of other non-controversial pieces of legislation, however, the bill languished before the full Senate from late February until a little more than a week ago, Christensen added.
"The bill was supposed to have been passed by unanimous consent," she said. "But it was put together in a package with about 20 other bills, and there were some objections to other parts of the package, so it just sort of languished in the Senate. But it got pulled out a few weeks ago, and was finally sent to the president on June 20."
Christensen described the signing of the bill as timely, since local residents will soon be issued property-tax bills containing new real-property values.
"I am really gratified that we finally got the bill signed," she said. "I really didn't have much doubt that it would be signed into law, but it was really important that it was passed before the new property valuations come out. Property-tax bills should not be issued without us having some the ability to provide some kind of relief to residents."
The bill repeals a 1936 federal statute that prohibits the V.I. Legislature from granting property-tax exemptions to residents, Christensen explained: "Now that the bill has passed, the Legislature and the governor now have the opportunity to craft some provisions to temper what we know are going to be higher property taxes to those we've seen before."
Gov. John deJongh Jr. is ready to start taking advantage of the new law, according to a news release from Government House issued early Friday evening.
"Without the repeal of the statute, the local government would have continued to operate under a court injunction, which would have limited the authority of the territorial government to assess and collect real property taxes in the Virgin Islands," deJongh said.
With property tax values now on the rise, the new law would help to protect homeowners and give the V.I. government the same sort of authority granted to other U.S. jurisdictions, the governor said.
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