In Kansas two state senators are championing a new amendment to the state constitution that would freeze the assessed value of a home upon the homeowner's sixty-fifth birthday. The intent behind the proposal is a popular one: to help fixed-income seniors struggling with their property tax payments. However, the bill is poorly-targeted. It would help all seniors, including the wealthiest, and not just those struggling to pay their bills. Critics of the measure are starting to line up. Notably, AARP came out against the bill, saying, "It's not that we aren't concerned about older Kansans and their ability to pay property taxes, we just believe property tax relief should be more targeted". Some have suggested that the measure should be tied to the value of the home, so that, for example, only houses valued at less than $200,000 would have their assessed value frozen. Such a move would make the amendment much less expensive to the state, while still helping elderly homeowners.
However, an even better solution would be to expand the current Kansas property tax "circuit breaker" to include people of all ages. A circuit breaker kicks in when property taxes exceed a given percentage of the taxpayer's income, providing targeted relief only to those who need it. Circuit breakers are a cost-efficient way to provide targeted relief to those who need it most. For more information check out the latest report from the Center on Budget and Policies which takes a hard look at circuit breaker programs across the country.