Revenue Committee considers numerous bills

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The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue got a quick start on the new two-year legislative session by holding hearings on more than 75 bills in April, including many that would affect municipal revenues.
 
The hearings featured bills that the committee acted on in the last session but did not become law. These include important local government bills to update the law on the regulation and taxation of short-term rentals made through Airbnb and similar online companies, and to fix the laws governing the local taxation of renewable energy property in the aftermath of an Appellate Tax Board case last year.
 
The committee also heard testimony on bills, supported by the MMA, that would amend the Community Preservation Act statute to ensure a 50 percent first-round match for locally raised revenues and to raise the cap on the state Conservation Land Tax Credit Program that is intended to encourage property owners to donate land for conservation purposes. The fiscal 2018 budget bill approved by the House on April 25 includes a provision that would raise the cap on Conservation Land Tax Credits from a total of $2 million annually to $5 million over a three-year period.
 
On April 10, the Revenue Committee heard testimony on bills that would allow the establishment of local-option taxes and multi-municipality tax districts to help fund transportation projects and services. The MMA has raised concerns about this bill in the past related to governance and financial controls, and has invited supporters to make a presentation to the Fiscal Policy Committee in May.
 
The short-term rental legislation has been a work in progress for several years, but has become more urgent as changes in technology and business practices have given people new ways to find and pay for vacation and business stays. As Airbnb and similar online companies have increased their presence in cities and towns across the state, there is a growing need to figure out what rules should be applied to these rentals in order to protect public health and safety and to ensure tax and regulatory fairness with more traditional hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts. The MMA has been part of discussions on drafting a final bill and hopes that an agreement can be reached this year.
 
The renewable energy property tax legislation was filed following an ATB decision that expanded a limited exemption for solar and wind energy projects to include large-scale projects. This legislation, supported by the MMA, would restore the exemption to small projects and allow taxation of large projects unless a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement is executed.
 
The Revenue Committee, co-chaired by Sen. Michael Brady and Rep. Jay Kaufman, has more hearings scheduled for May, including a hearing on a wide range of property tax issues.