Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick unveiled a plan Thursday to give lower-income homeowners the same type of property tax breaks available to some senior citizens, in an attempt to fulfill a key campaign pledge, the Associated Press reports.
Beginning in January, an estimated 100,000 families and individuals would be eligible for a state tax credit of up to $860 a year under the new program. The current average statewide property tax bill is $3,800 per household.
“The bottom line is that people in Massachusetts have been paying more and getting less," said Patrick. "It's our job to turn that around."
Single individuals earning up to $46,000 and married couples jointly earning up to $70,000 would qualify. The assessed value of their homes would have to be under $684,000. The credit would cover the amount by which a household's property tax payment, including water and sewer charges, exceeds 10 percent of their income.
The state already offers similar tax breaks aimed at senior citizens, which are designed to make it easier for older homeowners on fixed incomes to stay in their homes. The tax breaks also were intended to make it easier for local communities to approve property tax increases to pay for new schools and other projects by easing senior citizen opposition to those hikes.
To cover the cost of the tax credits to the state -- pegged at about $75 million -- Patrick said he would file legislation to close $295 million in what he described as corporate tax loopholes that allow companies to receive unfair and unintended tax breaks.
"There are cracks in the system which allow companies to avoid paying their fair share," Patrick said in a statement. "By closing these unintended loopholes, we can help relieve the burden on homeowners and small businesses."
Former Gov. Mitt Romney took a similar path when faced with a looming budget shortfall early in his first term. Romney closed corporate loopholes and raised hundreds of millions of dollars in higher fees and fines.
Patrick also said Thursday he planned to appoint a study group to scour the state's antiquated tax structure and look for ways to improve it.
Patrick is set to unveil his first state budget plan next week.