SALT LAKE CITY — Utah military members called to active duty would be exempt from paying residential property tax under a bill the Senate tentatively passed Tuesday.

A companion resolution calls for an amendment to the state constitution to allow the exemption, which voters would have to approve this fall.

The Senate preliminarily OK'd SB116 by vote of 24-2. The resolution, SJR8, passed 25-1. The measures need final Senate approval before moving to the House. The resolution must pass with a two-thirds majority in both chambers to put it on the general election ballot.

"Truly, this is a small way of saying thank you as a state," said bill sponsor Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake. "I don't think it's a huge burden."

To qualify for the exemption, soldiers would have to actively serve in the U.S. armed forces or reserves outside the state for 200 days in a calendar year, according to the bill. The state would then waive property tax on their primary residence the following year.

If the approximately 1,600 active military members in the state received the exemption, it would result in a $2.1 million reduction in property tax revenue. Due to truth in taxation, about 901,000 property owners who are not active military members would see a corresponding tax increase after five years. On average, the increase would be $1.03 per owner of a $250,000 home or $7.68 per $1 million business, according to legislative fiscal analysts.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, voted against the measures.

"I hate bills like this, and the reason I do is that they carve out exemptions for things I don't think are right," he said, adding there are already enough tax exemptions. "I'm just sick and tired of it."

Jenkins said there currently isn't a draft and service people "signed up on their own to do this."

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, called the bills a bipartisan effort to recognize the sacrifice those on active duty make. The measure does not authorize a tax increase, but gives a "minor" break to military families, he said.

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