Under Proposition 312, property owners could be eligible for tax refund if cities fail to enforce public nuisance laws

Frustrated by the effects of municipal governments’ unwillingness to adequately address a growing homelessness problem, Arizona lawmakers in 2024 passed HCR 2023, which gives voters this November the chance to decide whether property owners should receive financial relief for government’s failures. 

Proposition 312 

Set to take effect in the 2025 tax year and continue through 2035, Proposition 312 introduces a new refund mechanism aimed at reimbursing property owners for expenses incurred in mitigating the effects of a public nuisance on an owner’s private property or for the expenses incurred due to a city’s failure to address homelessness and other issues like panhandling and loitering in thoroughfares. 

  • Proposition 312 allows property owners to apply for a refund once per tax year for documented, reasonable expenses.
  • If the measure passes, property owners would apply for a refund to the Arizona Department of Revenue, which would then notify the relevant city, town, or county. The local authorities then have the option to accept or reject the refund request. If the request is accepted or remains unacknowledged for at least 30 days, ADOR will pay the refund.
  • In cases where the refund is rejected, property owners can pursue further legal action to determine their entitlement to the refund.
  • Refunds are based on the expenses incurred by the property owner that result from the city’s failure to address existing nuisance laws, but the refund amount will be limited to what the owner paid in primary property taxes for the previous year.
  • Property owners can reapply in subsequent tax years to claim the remaining balance. If the nuisance or policy persists, additional refunds can be requested in future tax years if a settlement is not reached with the local government. 

The state treasurer is responsible for withholding the refund amount from the transaction privilege tax revenues owed to the respective city, town, or county. (Transaction privilege taxes are sales taxes.) These funds are then credited to ADOR as reimbursement for the issued refunds. 

Relief for property owners 

“Proposition 312 offers financial relief for property owners who bear the brunt of public nuisances or inadequate enforcement of laws by local authorities,” said Courtney Coolidge, vice president of government affairs for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, which is supporting the measure. “By creating financial consequences for cities, we’re hopeful that Proposition 312 will hold local governments accountable for maintaining public order and move them to act.” 

In a submission for the pamphlet published by the Secretary of State’s Office that features arguments for and against the various questions that will appear on the ballot, the Chamber says that “Prop. 312 helps ensure we don’t face some of the problems major cities like Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles have experienced.” 

Supporters and opponents 

In addition to the Arizona Chamber, groups that registered support for the legislation that referred the measure to the ballot include the Goldwater Institute, the Arizona chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Arizona Food Marketing Alliance, a trade association for grocery and convenience stores. 

The Arizona League of Cities and Towns said it was opposed to the referral. In testimony in February before the state House Ways and Means Committee, lobbyist Jane Ahern said cities were limited in their ability to enforce urban camping bans due to a decision by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Grants Pass v. Johnson that found that bans on urban camping violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. 

The U.S. Supreme Court last month, however, overturned the Ninth Circuit decision. 

Writing for the majority in the 6-3 decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch said, “The Constitution’s Eighth Amendment serves many important functions, but it does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American people and in their place dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy.”

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