Business Personal Property Tax should stay, for now

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It sure would be nice to put the state’s business personal property tax to sleep for a few years, but now is not the time to do it.

There’s just too much depending on the revenue it raises.

House Bill 1141, which sought to exempt all business equipment purchased in 2012 and 2013 from the state’s business personal property tax, passed the House this week by a 34-31 vote, a narrow margin to say the least.

The bill is the latest in a long line of similar pieces of legislation that have sought to do away with the tax. But it’s the only one in recent years to receive the approval of one of the legislative chambers.

The argument to end the tax is always the same — and it’s always valid.

Business groups want to end the tax because it steals opportunity from small business to thrive. They reason that fewer taxes always add up to increased hiring, something that benefits the economy more than payments to state coffers.

With unemployment rates barely starting to lift again, businesses could sure use a shot in the arm right about now.

And, a shot in the arm is just how the bill has been characterized.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Holbert (R-Parker), called the measure an “economic stimulus opportunity”, saying that any property taxes that are lost because of the exemption will be made up by increased sales and possibly income tax revenue coming to the state.

While we believe that to be true, there are some ailing programs that depend on the tax too much to kill it at this time.

Education is the biggest — and most important — program that comes to mind. Another one is fire protection.

School districts rely heavily on property taxes to survive, and surviving will be their focus this year.

The House-approved $18 billion budget for the next fiscal year cuts $250 million in K-12 education. Even though the $250 million comes in less than the governor’s proposed $332 million, school districts have said the reduction will teacher layoffs, bigger class sizes and four-day school weeks in more areas.

Businesses might say they can’t afford the tax, but society can’t afford to keep cutting education, not this year, anyway.

All the argument over the bill will hopefully be for naught, in the end.

It will now move to the Senate, where a Democratic-controlled chamber is likely to kill it.