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Statesman endorses plan for homestead exemption; Martinez, Cole react

Thursday, August 14, 2014 by Jo Clifton

The American-Statesman in its Wednesday edition came out in favor of a 20 percent homestead exemption as proposed by mayoral candidate Steve Adler. The other major contenders, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Member Mike Martinez have criticized Adler’s plan to grant a 20 percent across-the-board tax exemption for homeowners because the wealthy would benefit more than the poor and renters would end up paying more. However, the Statesman opined that despite its imperfections, Adler’s plan is a start.

Their endorsement of his idea, which the paper has been pushing for some time, could point to an interesting conversation in the newspaper’s editorial office when it comes time to endorse a candidate.

Asked for a response, Cole said, “I have had to balance the city budget in good years and bad, and I know that you cannot simply assume a future surplus to pay for today’s problems. The back and forth of a campaign is not a sound enough circumstance to prompt us to make our tax structure more regressive and place a higher burden on 55 percent of the population who rent. Adler can’t bob and weave from the facts – it’s regressive. That’s why I’ve asked my staff to dig into our options. While state law requires homestead exemptions to be set by percentage, it also has a minimum exemption amount of $5,000. I support adopting a homestead policy that has the practical effect of providing a $5,000 flat exemption, which is both progressive and achievable within our budget.”

Martinez said Adler’s plan just does not work. “According to his own numbers, In order to pay for just the $2,300 tax cut on a $3 million home like Mr. Adler’s, 30 families who rent will have to pay another $77 each and every year. And Adler’s not asking us to pay more to invest in our children or keep our neighborhoods safe. He’s asking us to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut. That’s wrong,” he said.

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