Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/23/2002 08:06 AM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 521-MUNICIPAL IMPROVEMENT AREAS                                                                                            
CO-CHAIR MEYER  announced that the  next order of  business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL NO. 521,  "An Act relating to municipal improvement                                                               
Number 2592                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI, Alaska  State Legislature, testified as                                                               
chair of  the House  Labor and  Commerce Standing  Committee, the                                                               
sponsor  of HB  521.   She stated  that HB  521 is  essentially a                                                               
follow up of  legislation from last year dealing with  the use of                                                               
tax increment financing.  Essentially,  HB 521 clarifies that tax                                                               
increment  financing  (TIF)  can  be  used  with  either  general                                                               
obligation  (GO) bonds  or  revenue bonds,  or  a combination  of                                                               
both.  Currently, the statute is  silent in regard to what can be                                                               
used for  TIF.  This legislation  also allows TIF to  be used for                                                               
private  and   public  projects  in  order   to  provide  greater                                                               
flexibility  to the  municipalities  that want  to utilize  these                                                               
improvement areas.   Furthermore,  the definition  of improvement                                                               
area  has been  broadened to  go  just beyond  the definition  of                                                               
blighted  area.    For  example,   Anchorage  is  discussing  the                                                               
development  of  town  centers throughout  the  community.    The                                                               
current   definition  of   improvement  area   would  pose   some                                                               
restrictions.  Representative Murkowski  concluded by saying that                                                               
HB 521 uses  TIF in order to enhance urban  renewal and encourage                                                               
property improvement.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI inquired as  to the difference between this                                                               
and the current structure for local improvement districts (LID).                                                                
Number 2792                                                                                                                     
STEVE  VAN  SANT,  State  Assessor,  Division  of  Community  and                                                               
Business   Development,  Department   of  Community   &  Economic                                                               
Development, explained  that LIDs  are under  special assessments                                                               
in  the statutes.   That  is,  LIDs are  improvements to  private                                                               
property  that  is  paid  for   by  the  local  municipality  and                                                               
subsequently rolled  into the  tax bill  of each  individual, and                                                               
therefore  those are  paid back.   However,  the TIF  is entirely                                                               
different  in that  it's of  a public  nature.   He informed  the                                                               
committee that Anchorage has had  a TIF, the Fifth Avenue parking                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  SCALZI related  his understanding  that LIDs  are                                                               
capable  of  enhancing  roads  and   public  rights-of-way.    He                                                               
remarked that [the TIF] seems to meet the same criteria.                                                                        
MR. VAN SANT agreed with  Representative Scalzi in that these are                                                               
improvements that  are made  in the  municipality.   The statutes                                                               
recognize  special assessments,  which are  improvements made  to                                                               
private property and paid for  with private funds.  However, [the                                                               
TIF] refers  to the difference between  the old tax base  and the                                                               
new  tax base  after  the  project begins.    That difference  is                                                               
pledged  to  pay for  improvements  that  benefit the  public  at                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI  asked if  a city-owned road  and right-of-                                                               
way would be a public utility.   Thus if an LID fit the criteria,                                                               
would the revenue from the  property owners adjacent to that road                                                               
be incorporated, he  asked.  Still, the road is  a city road that                                                               
everyone uses.                                                                                                                  
MR. VAN  SANT explained that  currently LIDs are  typically liens                                                               
against  certain properties,  while [TIF]  projects would  pledge                                                               
the entire  faith and  credit of the  municipality for  a project                                                               
rather than a specific area.                                                                                                    
Number 2957                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO  surmised then  that the revenue  stream to                                                               
pay for  the bonds comes  from the  increase in the  property tax                                                               
assessment that's accomplished by the improvements.                                                                             
MR.  VAN   SANT  pointed  out   that  there  are   two  different                                                               
methodologies with  HB 521.   One methodology  is a GO  bond that                                                               
pledges  the  faith  and  credit  of  all  the  property  in  the                                                               
jurisdiction.  However,  the TIF takes the difference  in the tax                                                               
that ...                                                                                                                        
TAPE 02-24, SIDE B                                                                                                              
MR.  VAN SANT  turned to  the  construction of  the Fifth  Avenue                                                               
parking  garage in  Anchorage.   He estimated  that the  property                                                               
value in  the area was  worth $5 million before  the construction                                                               
of  the parking  garage.   After the  garage's construction,  the                                                               
value of the  [property] increased to say $7 million.   The taxes                                                               
on the  difference in value, $2  million, was pledged to  pay for                                                               
the financing on the garage.                                                                                                    
Number 2948                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO remarked that  it seems fairly speculative.                                                               
He questioned what  would happen if property  values decrease and                                                               
the revenue  stream to pay  off the indebtedness doesn't  come to                                                               
MR. VAN  SANT pointed  out that  such was  the case  in Anchorage                                                               
during the  recession in  the late  1980s when  [property] values                                                               
dropped  approximately  50 percent.    During  such a  time,  the                                                               
minimum [payment]  has to  be made.   Again,  the full  faith and                                                               
credit  of  the  municipality  has  been  pledged  and  thus  the                                                               
municipality has  to make  the payment.   The difference  is that                                                               
the [payment] would come out of  the general fund rather than the                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO  surmised then that the  community could be                                                               
put  at  a substantial  risk,  depending  upon  the size  of  the                                                               
MR. VAN SANT  highlighted that HB 521 includes  the following two                                                               
different  methodologies:   revenue  bonds  and  GO bonds.    The                                                               
choice is  up to the  municipality.   Revenue bonds refer  to the                                                               
revenue  generated by  the project,  which  is pledged.   The  GO                                                               
bonds  actually  pledge   the  full  faith  and   credit  of  the                                                               
municipality.   He explained  that the  TIF specifies  that those                                                               
taxes above and  beyond what was there prior  to development will                                                               
be pledged  to pay  [for the  bond].  In  the case  of decreasing                                                               
values, the municipality would be left to take it out of the GF.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  HALCRO  reiterated  that   such  could  expose  a                                                               
community to a tax risk.                                                                                                        
CO-CHAIR MEYER pointed  out that this is a local  option and thus                                                               
the mayor  and the local assembly  would have to approve  such by                                                               
ordinance.   He recalled [Anchorage]  taking a similar  risk when                                                               
it purchased  a one-third  share of the  Beluga gas  field, which                                                               
was done through a revenue bond.                                                                                                
Number 2832                                                                                                                     
GEORGE  CANELAS, Director,  Real Estate  Services, Heritage  Land                                                               
Bank,  Municipality of  Anchorage, testified  via teleconference.                                                               
Mr.  Canelas announced  that [the  municipality]  is thinking  of                                                               
using  the  TIF  process  to   promote  economic  development  in                                                               
selected areas of  town.  As mentioned earlier, it  is a strategy                                                               
in  [the Municipality  of Anchorage's]  2020 Comprehensive  Plan.                                                               
The  first area  of focus  is the  proposed Muldoon  Town Center,                                                               
which would  seem to be an  excellent test case because  it has a                                                               
private  sector sponsor  who has  site control  over most  of the                                                               
proposed  area.     [The  municipality]   is  seeking   the  most                                                               
appropriate  methods  for the  municipality  to  respond to  this                                                               
private  sector initiative.    [The  municipality] believes  that                                                               
overall  HB  521  is  an  excellent step  to  provide  the  broad                                                               
flexibility necessary to find the best model.                                                                                   
MR. CANELAS informed the committee  that the municipality doesn't                                                               
anticipate  needing TIF  proceeds  to finance  or  loan funds  to                                                               
private development of improvement  districts as provided on page                                                               
1, line 6.   Overall, the municipality doesn't  believe that it's                                                               
good public policy to use local  property tax proceeds to pay for                                                               
private development.   Although some communities  do this through                                                               
enabling  statutes, [the  Municipality of  Anchorage] intends  to                                                               
focus the TIF efforts on  funding public sector improvements such                                                               
as   infrastructure,  which   would  compliment   private  sector                                                               
initiatives.   Therefore,  [the municipality]  would prefer  that                                                               
the language  "or private" on  page 1, line  6, be deleted.   Mr.                                                               
Canelas informed  the committee of the  municipality's support of                                                               
the expanded  definition of improvement areas,  which goes beyond                                                               
the traditional  notion of using  TIFs for blighted areas.   This                                                               
expanded  definition of  improvement  areas  follows the  pattern                                                               
around the country.  In  conclusion, Mr. Canelas characterized HB
521 as good legislation.                                                                                                        
Number 2728                                                                                                                     
MARK  PFEFFER,   Koonce,  Pfeffer,  Bettis   Architects;  Venture                                                               
Development  Group, testified  via teleconference.   Mr.  Pfeffer                                                               
informed the committee that "we"  are involved with redevelopment                                                               
efforts for the Muldoon Town Center  area.  "We are in support of                                                               
HB  521," he  stated.   He  noted the  belief that  HB 521  would                                                               
enhance the  existing laws for  redevelopment of  blighted areas.                                                               
From  Mr. Pfeffer's  personal and  private sector  experience, he                                                               
said  that redevelopment  of blight[ed  areas] is  problematic in                                                               
numerous  ways in  relation to  planning,  social, and  financial                                                               
issues.   Anchorage has  dealt with  the planning  issues through                                                               
the adoption  of the Anchorage 2020  plan.  In the  Muldoon area,                                                               
Mr. Pfeffer  pointed out that  his firm has  worked cooperatively                                                               
with the  municipality and social  service providers in  order to                                                               
work  through the  social issues  involved with  redevelopment of                                                               
the blighted areas.   In regard to  financial issues, substantial                                                               
challenges remain.   He related the belief  that redevelopment in                                                               
the  [Muldoon]  area will  generally  involve  a balance  between                                                               
private  and  public investment.    The  existing TIF  recognizes                                                               
this; however,  the current law  contains ambiguities  that would                                                               
be  clarified  by the  proposed  new  language  of  HB 521.    As                                                               
mentioned  earlier, HB  521 clarifies  that both  GO and  revenue                                                               
bonds are appropriate bonding methods  for the TIF.  Furthermore,                                                               
HB 521 redefines "blight."   Mr. Pfeffer concluded by reiterating                                                               
support for HB 521.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  MURKOWSKI  recalled  Mr. Canela's  suggestion  to                                                               
delete  the   reference  to  private  improvements   because  the                                                               
municipality  doesn't  anticipate  using any  funds  for  private                                                               
development.  She requested that Mr. Pfeffer comment.                                                                           
MR. PFEFFER related the belief  that there are instances where it                                                               
would  be  appropriate  for private  development.    However,  he                                                               
acknowledged  that   this  would  be  treading   on  new  ground.                                                               
Therefore, until  there is  a specific use,  Mr. Pfeffer  said he                                                               
would be  amenable to the  proposed deletion because most  of the                                                               
application will  be for public  infrastructure.  If  a situation                                                               
arises  in which  it would  be  appropriate to  use for  [private                                                               
development], it  would be coordinated with  local government and                                                               
return to the legislature for clarification [in statute].                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI surmised then  that Mr. Pfeffer would be                                                               
able to move forward with  the Muldoon Town Center without having                                                               
a provision  in HB 521  that would allow for  the funds to  go to                                                               
the private development.                                                                                                        
MR. PFEFFER replied yes.                                                                                                        
Number 2498                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI referred to page  2, lines 5-7, and related                                                               
his understanding  that there would  be no level of  support from                                                               
the  individuals in  the area.   The  municipality will  make the                                                               
distinction and  pledge these bonds  on behalf of  the residents,                                                               
and the  residents will  pay through  a property  tax assessment.                                                               
He asked if that was correct.                                                                                                   
MR.   PFEFFER   pointed    out   that   Representative   Scalzi's                                                               
understanding assumes  that there would  be an assessment  in the                                                               
area  for  the improvements.    However,  the mill  rate  applied                                                               
against the  assessed value in  the area  stays the same  in that                                                               
area as throughout the rest of  the municipality.  The only thing                                                               
generating the additional tax revenue  is increased value because                                                               
of  private  sector  development.   Mr.  Pfeffer  clarified  that                                                               
Representative Scalzi was correct in  regard to the properties in                                                               
the area paying  for the improvement.   However, those properties                                                               
aren't assessed an  additional tax.  "It's the  increase in value                                                               
that occurs  because of the  new improvements added to  the area,                                                               
because public infrastructure has been added," he explained.                                                                    
Number 2381                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO recalled testimony  that one of the reasons                                                               
the Muldoon  project is such  a good  project is because  much of                                                               
the area is  controlled by private hands.   Representative Halcro                                                               
asked if Mr. Pfeffer's suggestion  is to leave in private because                                                               
that  seems  appropriate  if  the  Muldoon  project  is  to  move                                                               
forward.   Otherwise,  Representative  Halcro  surmised that  the                                                               
money couldn't be spent on the property.                                                                                        
MR. PFEFFER related his understanding  that the city doesn't want                                                               
to  see the  proceeds used  to  help pay  for private  commercial                                                               
development.   These  proceeds could  be used  to pay  for public                                                               
improvements such  as sewer,  water, trails,  or even  to acquire                                                               
property  for public  use.   The private  sector wants  to see  a                                                               
commitment  from  the  local  government  in  order  make  public                                                               
improvements in  the area.   Because  [the private  entity] knows                                                               
those  public  improvements  are  going to  occur,  the  [private                                                               
entity]  is  willing  to  make  private  investments  on  private                                                               
property.  Mr.  Pfeffer said that there may be  some instances in                                                               
which it would be appropriate for  the TIF to be used for private                                                               
improvements.      However,   those  [instances]   haven't   been                                                               
distinguished yet and  thus we're willing to [go  along] with the                                                               
suggested deletion for now.                                                                                                     
Number 2226                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI  referred to page  2, lines 8-12,  which he                                                               
read  to  say  that  the municipality  isn't  obligated  to  make                                                               
payments to  those bonds issued  for a special  assessment, while                                                               
there  is no  prohibition against  the municipality  collecting a                                                               
different  tax rate  for  that particular  area.   Therefore,  he                                                               
asked if,  under current  statute, [the  private entity]  has the                                                               
ability   to  have   differential   tax  mill   rates  within   a                                                               
MR. VAN SANT replied yes.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  SCALZI  inquired  as   to  why  that  section  is                                                               
included.   He  reiterated his  earlier question  as to  why this                                                               
legislation is even necessary.                                                                                                  
MR. VAN SANT  answered that he didn't know why  [the section] was                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI  related his  impression that  this ability                                                               
is already available [under current statutes].                                                                                  
Number 2057                                                                                                                     
TIM  ROGERS,  Legislative  Program Coordinator,  Municipality  of                                                               
Anchorage, testified  via teleconference.   Mr.  Rogers explained                                                               
that  under the  TIF  the  mill rate  isn't  being increased  but                                                               
rather the proceeds of the  increased assessed valuation is being                                                               
pledged in order to pay for  the improvements.  Although this may                                                               
be a fine  differentiation, it is a significant one  in regard to                                                               
the purposes of redevelopment of blighted areas.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI, in  regard to why HB  521 is necessary,                                                               
explained  that  HB 521  was  advanced  in  order to  expand  the                                                               
definition  of  improvement area  so  that  the undeveloped  area                                                               
around   the  blighted   area  could   be  incorporated   in  the                                                               
definition.   Furthermore, the  legislation clarifies  that there                                                               
is an  option to  choose between  revenue bonds,  GO bonds,  or a                                                               
combination of the two.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  HALCRO related  his  belief  that the  difference                                                               
[between current  statute and HB  521] would be in  the repayment                                                               
mechanism.  Currently, the system  operates under the notion that                                                               
the  mill rate  will stay  the  same.   However, the  development                                                               
through the bond  process will result in an  increase in property                                                               
tax values, which will be pledged  to repay the debt service.  On                                                               
the other hand,  with special improvement districts  a tax credit                                                               
is given  for a  couple of years  and then it  has to  be repaid.                                                               
Again,  if the  property values  decrease, Representative  Halcro                                                               
questioned  from where  the revenue  would come  to pay  the debt                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SCALZI asked  if more money is  being budgeted for                                                               
Board of Equalization hearings.                                                                                                 
MR. ROGERS  replied no.  Mr.  Rogers turned to revenue  bonds and                                                               
clarified that  the bond holders,  not the city, would  be taking                                                               
the risk in  regard to whether the property values  rise or fall.                                                               
For  example,  in  a  situation  in  which  the  property  values                                                               
decreased and  there were no  incremental taxes to fund  the debt                                                               
repayment, the bond  holders would face the risk.   The taxpayers                                                               
wouldn't be sought to [pay] the difference.                                                                                     
Number 1751                                                                                                                     
DEVEN MITCHELL,  Debt Manager,  Treasury Division,  Department of                                                               
Revenue,  provided the  following clarifications.   In  regard to                                                               
the  ramifications  for a  community  utilizing  a GO  bond,  Mr.                                                               
Mitchell pointed  out that a community  must vote to pass  the GO                                                               
bond.  Therefore, the input in  regard to the willingness to take                                                               
the  risk  that the  TIF  would  be  insufficient would  be  done                                                               
upfront.   In regard to the  comment that an investor  would take                                                               
all the risk  when using a revenue bond,  Mr. Mitchell disagreed.                                                               
He  pointed  out that  assemblies  and  city councils  will  have                                                               
flexibility  when  structuring  revenue   bonds.    In  order  to                                                               
[obtain]  investment grade  revenue bonds,  probably more  than a                                                               
tax  increment  as security  to  bond  holders will  be  required                                                               
because otherwise  it would become  speculative and  require more                                                               
paid in  interest.  Again, that  would be a decision  made at the                                                               
local level.                                                                                                                    
MR. MITCHELL turned  to the difference between an LID  and a TIF.                                                               
He  identified  a  potential  difference   with  an  LID  as  the                                                               
increment on the taxes.   Furthermore, the taxes increase because                                                               
of  the improvements.    Therefore,  one would  be  taxed at  the                                                               
increased rate on  the increased value.  However,  with the [TIF]                                                               
there  is no  increased rate  but rather  the difference  in what                                                               
would otherwise would be paid.                                                                                                  
MR. MITCHELL  pointed out that the  private improvements included                                                               
in  HB 521  allows  the  use of  tax  exempt  financing within  a                                                               
municipality for essentially private  projects.  He characterized                                                               
this as  perhaps an  unintended consequence.   He  explained that                                                               
under the  tax code  revisions of  1986 each  state is  allowed a                                                               
private activity cap allocation,  which is currently $225 million                                                               
for Alaska.   This money  is available for certain  mortgage loan                                                               
programs,  student  loan  programs, redevelopment  projects,  and                                                               
industrial development  projects.  With the  current language [in                                                               
HB 521]  if a  developer convinced  a municipality  to ask  for a                                                               
private activity  cap, then part  of the $225 million  tax exempt                                                               
financing would be used to fund the private project.                                                                            
CO-CHAIR  MEYER  inquired  as  to  whether  [the  department]  is                                                               
supportive of the bill.                                                                                                         
MR. MITCHELL answered  that [the department] is  indifferent.  He                                                               
commented that  HB 521  allows development in  areas where  it is                                                               
probably needed.  How [the  legislature] wants to use the state's                                                               
limited ability  to finance  things on  a tax  exempt basis  is a                                                               
state decision.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  KERTTULA  related   her  understanding  that  the                                                               
federal law  allows the  state the  ability to  grant up  to $225                                                               
million.  She surmised that there isn't a fund somewhere.                                                                       
MR. MITCHELL further explained that  since the federal government                                                               
took away  the ability to finance  things on a tax  exempt basis,                                                               
the federal  government provided  the aforementioned  annual cap.                                                               
Therefore, each  state has  to decide  how to  use this.   Alaska                                                               
primarily  uses   this  cap  for   the  Alaska   Housing  Finance                                                               
Corporation's  (AHFC)  First-Time  Homebuyer's  program  and  the                                                               
student loan program.   He noted that it has  been used for power                                                               
projects  that  the  Alaska  Industrial  Development  and  Export                                                               
Authority (AIDEA) has developed.   Alaska has the minimum cap and                                                               
[has about the same number of requests as the cap can fill].                                                                    
Number 1425                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  inquired as  to how much  of the  cap is                                                               
utilized for  student loans  and First-Time  Homebuyer's program.                                                               
She asked if the cap is currently being met.                                                                                    
MR. MITCHELL  replied yes, the  cap is  fully utilized.   The cap                                                               
was  increased in  2001 and  2002  to its  current $225  million.                                                               
However,  the  First-Time  Homebuyer's   program  has  been  very                                                               
successful and takes whatever it can from the cap.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA  surmised then  that [passage of  HB 521]                                                               
would place  more pressure  on the  private activity  cap because                                                               
more applicants will want to use that [financing].                                                                              
MR.  MITCHELL answered  that such  would  be a  potential if  the                                                               
private improvement  [language is left in  HB 521].  If  the bill                                                               
merely refers to public improvements,  then the pressure wouldn't                                                               
be there because  it would be limited to what  could otherwise be                                                               
financed with tax exempt financing.                                                                                             
CO-CHAIR MORGAN asked if any other organizations use this cap.                                                                  
MR. MITCHELL specified that AIDEA  does utilize the cap. However,                                                               
AIDEA is project  driven and thus hasn't made a  request for some                                                               
time.   He noted that last  year, the North Slope  Borough made a                                                               
request for  a clean water  project at a  BP facility.   Over the                                                               
last couple  of years,  the primary  users of  the cap  have been                                                               
AHFC  and the  student loan  program.   The student  loan program                                                               
uses about $30 million a year.                                                                                                  
Number 1288                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   MURKOWSKI  moved   that   the  committee   adopt                                                               
Amendment 1:                                                                                                                    
     Page 1, line 6,                                                                                                            
          Delete "or private"                                                                                                   
There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                              
Number 1195                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HALCRO  moved to report  HB 521 as amended  out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
zero fiscal  note.  There  being no objection, CSHB  521(CRA) was                                                               
reported from  the House Community and  Regional Affairs Standing                                                               

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