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Student, U. property taxes on hold for now

While legislators were busy banning indoor prostitution and texting while driving, two bills that could have cost Brown millions did not make it onto the agenda of last week's General Assembly special session — and though they are dead for now, their fate remains uncertain.

The first measure, a "student impact fee" first proposed by Providence Mayor David Cicilline '83, would allow Providence and other municipalities to collect $150 per semester for every out-of-state student attending a private college or university within their city limits.

"Basically, there was no consensus of support for it," said Larry Berman, spokesman for House Majority Leader Gordon Fox, D-Dist. 4, who sponsored the bill. "It needs more debate, (and) they wanted to finish the business that was more at hand."

No decision has been made yet about the measure's future, Berman said. But "there would have to be some changes to it" to gain legislator support, he added.

Another bill would partially eliminate a property tax exemption for large non-profits like hospitals and universities by requiring those nonprofits with holdings of over $20 million to 25 percent of the normal property tax rate.

The bills would need to be reintroduced when the state House of Representatives and Senate reconvene in January in order to receive further consideration, Berman said.

The University has lobbied against both measures since their proposal. President Ruth Simmons personally weighed in on the debate this summer, making the case that the bills are misguided. Two e-mails from Simmons in June urged community members to voice their opinions of the bill.

"While we were prepared for the possibility that the legislation to tax students may come up, we had hoped it would not emerge as an item for consideration" in the special session, wrote Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn in an e-mail to The Herald. "We will continue to make the case with government officials that institutions of higher education and the students they serve are critical assets to be supported — especially during these challenging economic times."

The proposed student tax would apply to over 95 percent of Brown undergraduate, graduate and medical students, adding up to about $2.3 million in total per year. It is unclear how much the property tax initiative would cost the University.



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