Reforms on Texas ballot benefit veterans
The Brownsville Herald, Texas
BROWNSVILLE, Texas — With November elections on the not-so-distant horizon, Texas Secretary of State John Sheen released a list of amendments on the ballot, two of which would provide tax breaks to certain military veterans and their spouses.
Voters will have to choose whether to pass two amendments that would include partially disabled veterans and the spouses of veterans who died in combat in certain property tax breaks already available to the surviving spouse of a 100 percent fully disabled veteran.
Proposition 1 would authorize the Texas Legislature to provide an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of a residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action, providing the surviving spouse hasn’t remarried.
Proposition 4 would authorize the Legislature to do the same for either a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if that homestead was donated to the veteran from a charitable organization.
State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, said the propositions would fix real problems and he hopes Texas voters approve them.
“We heard testimony that showed that recently homes have been donated by charitable organizations to returning soldiers who have sustained injuries,” he said.
“On occasion, these donations have unintentionally resulted in the foreclosure of donated homes because they are unable to pay property taxes. We want to encourage charitable donations and ensure veterans or organizations won’t lose the home due to a veterans’ ability to pay,” Lucio added.
That amendment is now called Proposition 4, he said.
In 2011, Texas voters passed an amendment that Lucio helped author that gave veterans a tax exemption of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran or their surviving spouse.
“Proposition 1 complements legislation passed during the last two legislative sessions that was intended to support spouses of disabled service members,” he said. “It supports it by lessening tax burden when a loved one is no longer around to help provide.”
Lucio also authored legislation that didn’t make it out of committee that would have provided more property tax breaks regardless of disability. This legislation would have allowed counties to decide to exempt veterans from paying property taxes from $10,000 of property value with an option to increase it up to $75,000 of the homestead property tax bill.
However, Lucio said there was some contention about how much money propositions 1 and 4 would take out of the pockets of local taxing districts.
“Those that are more concerned are those entities that obviously would not be receiving those funds that would have generated money from those households in the past that would qualify,” Lucio said. “But I think with the growth that’s taken place with more people staying in the Valley because of many more opportunities that local units aren’t going to be out of much money.”
Lucio said support for veterans is an important topic to him because his father was a disabled veteran of foreign wars and he believes supporting the men and women returning to the United States from a decade of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as veterans of all foreign wars, is part of being an American.
“I just hope the voters will support these amendments. I believe it’s the least we can do,” he said. “We have to consider all the sacrifice these families have gone through and will continue to go through.
“That’s what I was taught growing up and that’s what I believe. And the more I live to see it, the more convinced I am that we are doing the right thing.”