Landowners who lease property to churches would get a big tax break under terms of legislation given Senate approval on Tuesday.

Current law sets the taxable value of church-owned property used for religious purposes at 1 percent of its “fair market value.” By contrast, residential property is assessed at 10 percent of its property; commercial land has a 19.5 percent assessment.

HB 2281 would apply that 1 percent assessment rate in cases where churches rent their space, with the presumption the property owner would pass along the savings to the church.

Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, argued that lower property taxes paid by some mean higher taxes on everyone else to make up the difference, but Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said it's only fair, saying there's no reason that churches rich enough to own their own buildings should get a tax break that's not available to congregations that have to rent.

The 16-14 vote sends the measure to the governor.

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