PROPERTY TAX FOR NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS?

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By Zaldy Dandan

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 30, 1998 - Marianas Variety)--- Representative Karl T. Reyes (R-Prec. 1, Saipan) says as a "last resort" he might consider filing a bill that would impose a property tax in the CNMI --a proposal which, he admits, could mean the end of his political career.

"It's going to be very unpopular but I might consider playing the role of the guinea pig for it," the Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means said.

First elected in 1995, Reyes is currently serving a second term.

As a delegate to the 1985 Constitution Convention, Reyes introduced the constitutional amendment that prohibited the enactment of a property tax for the next 10 years.

"More than 10 years have passed, and now I know that there will come a time when we have to come up with this tax to provide needed services to the people," he said.

But Reyes added that his bill -- if he would draft one -- will not impose a "heavy burden" on property owners.

"I'm looking at a 0.5 percent tax rate, the payment for which could be spread out in three payments," he said. "For example, if your property, which includes the house, is assessed to be worth $80,000 then you pay a tax of $400, which you can pay in three installments.

Moreover, the old and poor could be exempted from the tax, he said.

The government, for its part, will then use the tax revenues to provide free garbage collection or even to lower the current power rates for residents, Reyes said.

"By paying this tax the people could feel they're participating in the improvement of the community," he said. "In turn, the government could do more for the community."

He admitted that some members of the community, particularly businessmen, would rather see the size of government reduced instead of paying new taxes.

"But the community also wants the government to provide medical referral, free education and to beef up the police force," Reyes said.

"Right now the CNMI is one the few places in the U.S. political family that doesn't have a property tax, and yet we're trying to provide all these public services," he said.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Marianas Variety.

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