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Homeowners could get casino payout

Patrick bill to share windfall via tax cut

Governor Deval Patrick has promised that his casino bill, expected to be released this week, would provide property tax relief. Governor Deval Patrick has promised that his casino bill, expected to be released this week, would provide property tax relief.

Nearly a million homeowners across the state could receive an income tax break equal to 4 percent of their property taxes under Governor Deval Patrick's soon-to-be-unveiled casino bill, according to a Department of Revenue analysis.

The analysis details how Patrick expects to deliver on a key benefit, providing property tax relief, that he has cited as a rationale for inviting developers to build three resort casinos in Massachusetts.

According to the bill, expected to be released later this week, the state would distribute hundreds of millions in casino revenue as tax reductions to homeowners whose local property taxes equal at least 2 1/2 percent of their annual income.

The governor has projected that casinos would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues for the state, by turning over 27 percent of total gambling proceeds. After paying to beef up law enforcement, set up a regulatory agency, and fund addiction programs, the state would be left with an estimated $400 million a year.

Half would go to road and bridge repairs. The other half, $200 million according to Patrick administration estimates, would be distributed as tax breaks ranging from $150 to $375, the analysis shows. About 980,000 homeowners would qualify.

Although individual taxpayers would benefit under the governor's plan, city and town governments, which have clamored for years for decreased dependence on property taxes to finance local services, are unlikely to be mollified.

Geoffrey Beckwith - executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a group that represents the state's cities and towns - said the income tax credit does not address the revenue plight of cities and towns.

"This money is not local aid," he said. "We all know that property taxes are a major problem in Massachusetts. We believe the best way is to provide revenue sharing and local aid to cities and towns to reduce the reliance on the property tax."

"We're not in a position to make any comment about the efficacy of the governor's plan, since we haven't seen the language or the analysis." he added.

The average tax credit would be $204, slightly lower than the $215 the Patrick administration had projected previously. The actual dollar figure would vary considerably from community to community.

Low- and middle-income homeowners living in cities or suburbs would receive the biggest percentage tax break. Residents of Fall River, for example, would receive an average tax credit equal to 7.6 percent of their property taxes, or $177.

Homeowners in wealthier communities would receive a higher dollar amount, but because their taxes are much higher, the percentage tax break is lower.

In Weston, for example, the average tax credit is projected to be $261, a number that represents only 1.5 percent of the average property tax bill.

Dover homeowners would receive $241 on average, which equals 1.9 percent of the average tax bill in town.

The tax breaks would range from the equivalent of 1.5 or 2 percent off an average tax bill in suburbs like Sherborn, Wellesley, Sudbury, and Weston, to 7 to 10 percent in poorer communities like North Adams, Fall River, and Lawrence.

Homeowners whose taxes equal 2.5 to 4.99 percent of their income would receive a $150 credit; homeowners who spend 5 to 7.49 percent of their income would receive $225; those who pay 7.5 to 9.99 percent of their annual income for taxes would get $300; and homeowners who pay 10 percent or more on property taxes would get $375.

The analysis did not indicate how many property owners would not qualify for the credit - either because they are so wealthy, or because their taxes are so low that they cost less than 2 1/2 percent of their income.

Under Patrick's plan, the state would license three casinos, one in each of three geographic regions: Southeastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and the Boston metropolitan area.

The licensing process, including bidding for the 10-year licenses, would generate between $600 million and $900 million in up-front fees for the state.

The state would charge potential bidders $300,000 just to have their proposal reviewed. Applying for a license would cost an additional amount.

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