A bill exempting rent-paying churches from taxes passes the Senate Finance committee Wednesday. H-B 2128 argues there’s currently a double standard between financially struggling churches required to pay taxes and more well-set churches that own their land that don’t get a tax bill.

Crossroads Church lead pastor Steven Wyatt, supporting the bill, says the legislation speaks to his situation. He says his Anthem-based church is physically expanding and, as a result, increasing in community services, but the down side is that the taxes keep coming simply because the church is on leased property. Wyatt tells the committee his church’s bill is $2,000 a month, that, he says, “churches that those who can afford to buy are not required to pay.”

The bill’s opponents say the legislation will only create winners and losers, including non- church charities providing services on a par with churches but not under a faith-based umbrella. Tori Anderson with the Secular Coalition for Arizona cites a church at a strip mall that would reap tax breaks under the bill that a secular thrift store in the same location would not be entitled to, although the store performs community outreach.

H-B 2128 now heads to the Rules committee.

–Barbara Villa