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Preservation tax credit gets makeover in House bill

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The Indiana House is set to consider legislation that would shift the state’s historical preservation tax cut program into one that relies on grants instead.

House Bill 1215 – authored by Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany – would originally have expanded the tax credit from $450,000 to $10 million a year, an effort to boost its effectiveness and create move incentives for preservation projects.

But in the House Ways and Means Committee this week, lawmakers stripped the funding out of the bill and replaced the tax credit with a grant program.

Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R- Crawfordsville, authored the change.

“We have not been doing a very good job with the current tax credit,” Brown said. “Tax credits decrease revenue coming into the state. The idea going forward is so we can have an honest balanced budget is to really look at this as an expense to the state.”

The current program – administered by the Department of Natural Resources – is backlogged because the tax credit caps at $450,000 per year. That means some projects approved for the program have been completed but can’t claim the tax credit until 2023. Supporters of a program expansion say that gives few incentives for investors to restore historic properties, especially since many of them are private developers.

Clere and other supporters of the program have been working to change that. Last year a similar bill failed in the Senate.

“This bill is important because it is focused on Main Street Indiana,” Clere said. “Every community large and small has historical buildings that were once part of the economic life of the community and could be again.”

Brown said he had tried in the past to increase the tax credit but said the state needed to get rid of the outstanding credits first. He said starting over with a grant program cleans “the ledger sheet, so to speak.”

Amy Levander, a lobbyist for Indiana Landmarks, a historic preservation group, said she is concerned about changing the bill from a credit to a grant because Brown included no funding in the bill. That means the program would compete against the state’s other spending needs next year, when lawmakers write the next two-year state budget.

Levander said she would like to see a study between sessions so the lawmakers can look at the implications of having a grant program versus a tax credit program.

“We are open to looking at options for putting in place something that will maximize state tax dollars to stimulate redevelopment in historical properties around the state,” Levander said.

The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

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