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The Chamber of Commerce tax cut gets extended

Remember the Chamber of Commerce tax cut from the 2009 legislative session? Ed Sills of the Texas AFL-CIO has an update on it:

Much to our chagrin, the 2009 Texas Legislature approved a law that exempts local Chambers of Commerce from property taxes based on their status as a “nonprofit community business organization.”

The notion that Chambers of Commerce, which in some cases occupy very expensive properties, should not contribute to schools, cities, counties and other local entities seems contrary to their purported roles as catalysts for community growth. While we haven’t seen a full accounting of the cost of this exemption, the permanent tax holiday for Chambers of Commerce certainly seems inappropriate at a time when the Legislature has cut $4 billion from the state budget for public schools.

Now, under an opinion released [last week] by Attorney General Greg Abbott, it turns out that local boards of realtors also fall under the same tax exemption. This apparently comes as a surprise to one of the sponsors of the law, Sen. Mike Jackson, R-Pasadena, who argued in requesting the opinion that the legislative intent was to exempt local chambers of commerce only. That doesn’t matter, Abbott said. The view of one legislator does not determine legislative intent for legal purposes, and the plain language of the statute fits boards of realtors, he argued.

For the record, labor unions pay property taxes and have not lobbied the Legislature for similar tax-exempt status.

The next time you hear a local chamber of commerce official discuss school finance, or local taxes, or support for city and county institutions, remember the privileged status the chambers (and now the realtor boards) have wangled from the Texas Legislature. Come to think of it, you might want to remember when you pay your property taxes in the coming months that your local Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have to join you in supporting local government.

This is an issue that, in hard times, cries out for a revisit. Who’s next on the list of privileged business entities that don’t have to pay taxes?

Sure is nice to be in the one percent, isn’t it?

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