Newburyport, The Partnership Act and Money for Cities and Towns

Helping Massachusetts cities and towns with their property tax “crisis” –Governor Deval’s “Partnership Act.”

One of the things I really like about the “Partnership Act” (Municipal Partnership Act– its official name) is that it would close a property tax exemption created in 1915 that exempts telecommunications companies from paying property taxes on their (telephone) poles.

I believe that we are talking about Verizon here.

And as I understand it electric companies are paying taxes on their half of (telephone) poles, that they share with telecommunication companies that are exempt.

Good grief. That seems crazy to me.

“The best figures I have show that fairly taxing telecomm companies would add $261,330.00 in sorely needed revenue for Arlington.”, Tuesday, April 10, 2007

That’s an unofficial figure for one town, but folks, that’s a good chunk of change.

The argument against ending this antiquated loophole would be that Verizon would leave the state and run for the hills (I think that it’s unlikely Verizon would run for the hills, they appear to have way too much invested in the state of Massachusetts).

The other argument is that Verizon would pass this added expense onto the consumer.

“The governor discounted the arguments of Verizon Communications that closing the telecommunications tax loophole would lead directly to higher rates for consumers. He said Verizon has raised its rates by 30 percent even while its overall tax bill has gone down 46 percent.

The 92-year-old law, originally designed to bring telephone service to all corners of the state, exempts telephone companies from paying property taxes on poles and wires, an exemption worth an estimated $78 million, according to the governor.”
“Local officials, governor urge passage of Municipal Partnership Act” by MMA Publications/Web Director John Ouellette, Tuesday, April 10, 2007.

So as we are thinking about the fiscal crisis facing Newburyport, MA and a whole lot of other cities and towns across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, getting Verizon to pay for their half of the telephone poles works for me.

It just seems like plain old common sense.

Mary Eaton