Thursday, July 17, 2014

Press Release on the Passage of a Senate Environmental Bond Bill

On Tuesday I distributed the following press release regarding the passage of a Senate Environmental Bond Bill, which included an amendment I secured regarding the Conservation Land Tax Credit:

Tarr Amendment Increases Conservation Land Tax Credit in Enviro Bond Bill

Measure Aids Private Donors, Conserves Land for Public

Boston- On Thursday, July 10th, the Massachusetts State Senate passed its version of a $1.9 billion environmental bond bill, and a major amendment secured by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) seeks to expand the Conservation Land Tax Credit (CLTC) program.  Currently, the CLTC program provides a refundable tax credit of 50% of the appraised donation value, with a maximum cap of $50,000.  The Tarr amendment, which passed unanimously by a roll call vote of 38-0, would raise the max to $75,000 allowing for greater land conservation investments at a fraction of the cost, while benefiting both the general public and private land owners.

“Conserving and preserving open space is important for our environment, our quality of life and the character of our state,” said Senator Tarr.  “This tax credit has a proven track record of success, and strengthening it in the environmental bond bill will make a good tool even more powerful and effective.”

The Conservation Land Tax Credit was first signed into law in 2008; however, the application did not become available to the public until 2011.  Since then the program has conserved land for an average cost at just under $1,000 per acre, and for every $1 in tax credit provided by the Commonwealth, $5.60 has been generated for the state in land value. To date Massachusetts has conserved over 5,100 acres of land valued at over $21.3 million, while only costing the Commonwealth $3.8 million to purchase. 

The CLTC program has a $2 million cap limit for each calendar year, even though the tax credit has gained in popularity since becoming first available.  During the 2013 calendar year the program exhausted its cap limit from just 44 approved requests, and thus far, 2014 has at least 24 requests totaling $1.15 million, more than half of the program’s cap limit.  In July of 2011, the Massachusetts Commission on Financing Forest Conservation, which was also established by the legislature, recommended increasing the program’s cap to $20 million per calendar year.  With the vast benefits gained by the state, Senator Tarr is committed to increasing the CLTC program’s cap limit for future years to increase conservation land investments.

“Bonding and spending state money isn’t the only way to conserve land, we can also provide incentives that are equally or more effective.  By increasing this modest tax credit we can partner with private land owners to create a win-win situation that is extremely cost effective in promoting open space acquisition in our state,” said Senator Tarr.

The Senate passed the environmental bond bill by a vote of 38-0.  The House of Representatives previously passed its version of the bond bill on June 4th by a vote of 138-5; however, because the Conservation Land Tax Credit program was not included in the House version of the environmental bond bill, the amendment is subject to negotiation in an upcoming House-Senate conference committee.