Fee to fight homelessness gets conditional backing from GOP

  • By Jerry Cornfield
  • Tuesday, March 11, 2014 10:46am
  • Local News

Republican senators are willing to extend a fee for homeless assistance programs for one year as long as a chunk of the money goes to private landlords rather than housing programs run by cities, counties and nonprofits.

But a House Democratic leader said that’s an offer his caucus intends to refuse.

On Monday, the GOP majority of the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a bill to maintain the $40 document recording fee on home sales though July 1, 2016 and then begin to phase it out.

Under current law, the homeless housing and assistance surcharge is set at $40 through July 1, 2015 then drops to $30. It drops again to $10 in 2017.

The Senate bill also requires the Department of Commerce, which receives 38 percent of the money, to spend nearly half its allotment on private rental housing vouchers. Private rental housing is defined as housing owned by a private landlord and not housing owned by a nonprofit or government entity.

Republicans rebuffed efforts by the panel’s Democratic senators to make the fee permanent or extend it for a longer period of time.

The full Senate could vote on Senate Bill 5875 as early as today.

Meanwhile, the House approved legislation last month to make the $40 surcharge permanent. The measure passed on a 62-36 vote then died in the Senate.

On Monday, House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said the new Senate approach doesn’t measure up. Community and civic groups are making good use of the funds and he doesn’t believe the majority of House members want to see those dollars disappear.

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