From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
“This will give us the ability to mold easements in the future,” [Jay Winner, the general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District] said Wednesday. “It should also give the landowners surety in an easement that was not there in the past.” The Lower Ark district has a big stake in making easements work as part of its mission to protect water in the Lower Ark Valley. The district has received about 50 conservation easements since it was formed by voters in five counties in 2002. Winner has been working with a state oversight commission through the Division of Real Estate to clean up a system that has been plagued by improper appraisals and tax credits which cannot be marketed because of the cloud of suspicion surrounding conservation easements statewide.
Last week, the state House passed the legislation, HB1197. It has moved to the state Senate. The legislation would cap tax credits at $135,000, rather than the $375,000 currently allowed, at 50 percent of the fair market value. It also would limit the impact to the state budget to $26 million. In 2008, $63 million in tax credits were claimed. To sort out conservation easement claims, the Division of Real Estate would be given the power to promulgate rules and issue certificates for easement claims. The Department of Revenue would make quarterly reports to the Legislature on the amount of net gain to state revenue, under the assumption that claims would have remained at 2008 levels. Tax credits would be based on a first-come, first-served basis of approved certificates.