Guest Editorial: Grandma Can’t Make Ends Meet

By Scottsdale Pinetop

Age 65 signifies a time where elderly people have finished their working years and are now expected to enjoy retirement and a life of leisure. Instead, many elderly Arizona residents are spending their days worrying about how to pay the bills. Without the assistance of pensions or 401k contributions, many seniors are struggling to pay for life’s basic needs, often relying only on the assistance of social security checks.

To help make ends meet, many elderly residents have sought the assistance of the Elderly Assistance Fund, an Arizona program that was created to subsidize property taxes for low-income seniors living in Maricopa County.

The funds for the Elderly Assistance Fund are expected run out by 2019. This means that elderly people who benefit from the program would see their property tax bill almost double and put thousands of residents at risk of foreclosure.

But there still may be hope for Arizona senior citizens.

The Arizona Senate passed a bill that would permanently cut property taxes nearly in half for homeowners 65 and older that make less than $36,000 per year. If passed, it would provide relief to about 20,000 seniors statewide. The bill is awaiting a final vote by the Arizona House.

But not all lawmakers are on board. Opponents of the legislation argue that cutting property taxes does not resolve the poverty problem for seniors and can be unfair to working taxpayers that would be forced to pay the difference.

In the aftermath of the not too distant financial crisis, it would be heartbreaking and wrong to see hundreds of seniors burdened by financial uncertainties that force them to choose between prescriptions or property taxes. They’ve paid their dues and should have the opportunity to reap the benefits of their hard work. As important as adjusting property taxes statewide is, it’s fair to call it only a Band-Aid solution to the greater problem.

Lawmakers should also seek long-term solutions for senior citizens such as prescription and assisted living costs. Addressing these issues could be even more helpful than property tax legislation.