Lawmakers discussed the potential impact of a bill Wednesday that would amend the Homestead Tax Credit, making it available to a larger number of residents.
Members of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee heard favorable testimony on Senate Bill 2171 on Wednesday morning. To qualify for the Homestead Tax Credit, an applicant must either be 65 or older or be permanently or totally disabled.
SB2171 would raise the income thresholds for those who would qualify for the tax credit. It also would eliminate Social Security from being included in the calculation of income when processing an application for the tax credit.
“The expense of the Homestead Tax Credit was included in the governor’s budget proposal,” state budget director Pam Sharp said.
Sharp added that the $20 million estimated to cover the cost of additional tax credits has been included in the Tax Department’s budget.
Committee Chairman Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, asked Sharp what the impact of eliminating the “asset test” to the application process would do. The asset test, which is removed by SB2171, disqualifies applicants if their total assets are higher than $75,000, excluding the unencumbered valuation of their homestead.
“It would allow more people to qualify for the Homestead Tax Credit,” Sharp said.
Josh Askvig, a lobbyist with the AARP of North Dakota, said the organization is in favor of the bill’s provision for eliminating Social Security from the tax credit’s application process. Askvig testified that more than 92 percent of North Dakota’s senior citizens received Social Security benefits in 2010.
Cook asked Askvig what the AARP of North Dakota thought of the asset test. He said the AARP hasn’t developed a specific position on the asset test yet and it’s an issue that needs to be looked at further.
Sen. Jim Dotzenrod, D-Wyndmere, questioned Askvig on how many more people would be covered if it were opened up to more people. He said there are nearly 100,000 North Dakotans over the age of 65 and a majority of them would likely qualify under SB2171.
“We’re going to add a significant number of people to this program if we pass this,” Dotzenrod said.
Askvig said he was unsure on the number of people currently utilizing a homestead property tax credit but could provide the committee with the information.
“If they can access … programs to stay in their homes, it’s a good idea to us,” Askvig said.
Dotzenrod is a sponsor of SB2171. Other bill sponsors are Sens. Jerry Klein, R-Fessenden, and Ronald Sorvaag, R-Fargo, and Reps. Jason Dockter, R-Bismarck, Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, and Jim Schmidt, R-Huff.