Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth is among those who signed a letter to majority leaders in the U.S. House and Senate, urging that the Historic Tax Credit program, estimated to have leveraged $131 billion in private investment, be retained. The letter is also going to chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.
A study by the Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research indicates the tax credit program has created 2.4 million jobs and rehabilitated over 42,000 historic buildings, since it was made part of the federal tax code.
Main Street Beatrice executive director Michael Sothan says the tax credits can help encourage investment in historic buildings from the smallest to the largest cities.
“The biggest thing we’re concerned about locally is just losing a tool that helps even the playing field,” Sothan says. “Some of these older historic buildings can take a large investment to turn them around and really shine again.”
Federal lawmakers are considering eliminating the tax credits on restoration of historic buildings as a way to save money, but Sothan says it’s hard to put a price on preserving the past.
“Sometimes, we put more financial incentives for people building new, but yet we want these buildings fixed up. We want these older buildings to look nice,” Sothan says. “It’s gotta’ make financial sense for a lot of people and businesses to take a chance on them and this is a tool that really helps.”
The Rutgers study shows that although $23.1 billion in tax credits have been utilized, the credits have generated $28.1 billion in federal income taxes.
Sothan says Main Street Beatrice has spoken with members of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation, urging them to look at the benefits of the historic credit program.
“These buildings often take tens, usually hundreds of thousands, and in the bigger cities often in the millions to get done,” Sothan says. “They’re only getting 10 to 20% off the federal side and without that, these guys often won’t even do the project. It’s going to get bulldozed and taken off to a landfill.
Sothan says one local project is in the works that would make use of the Federal Historic Tax Credit program, and there’s potential for others in the future. This past year, downtown Beatrice was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Those endorsing the letter to Congress include Beatrice Mayor Stan Wirth, Fairbury Mayor Homer Ward, Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler, Hastings Mayor Corey Stutte, North Platte Mayor Dwight Livingston and Steele City Village Chairwoman Tammra Katz.
Mayors of several of the largest cities in the U.S. have also urged the Historic Tax Credit Program be preserved, including the cities of Denver, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, among others.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice