In The News › Measure gives tax break to veterans

Oct 20, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: On the Ballot, Taxation & Assessments

Measure gives tax break to veterans

Amendment would help those disabled

Wednesday, October 20, 2010
By Mark Waller
The Times-Picayune

The third out of 10 state constitutional amendments that voters will see on their ballots Nov. 2 gives them the chance to consider increasing Louisiana’s signature property tax break for severely disabled veterans and their spouses.

Amendment No. 3 would give parishes the option of holding local elections to double the homestead exemption for veterans whose service injuries render them entirely unable to work. That means the usual $75,000 deduction from their home assessments would become $150,000. The benefit would extend to spouses after veterans die.

To qualify for the doubled exemption, veterans would need to be classified as 100 percent disabled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I’m interested in trying to help the veterans of this country,” said Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, who authored the legislation this year. “They’re the ones that looked after us, in my opinion.”
The idea for the heightened exemption came from the Baton Rouge chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, where Commander Richard O’Brien said he had been researching ways of helping veterans by seeking examples from around the country. He found that Texas had created a property tax break for veterans.

The Bureau of Governmental Research, a government watchdog group, estimated about 2,500 veterans would qualify for the extra exemption across Louisiana. O’Brien estimated the number at 3,000 to 4,000, which he argued would result in a negligible loss of revenue for tax-collecting agencies. O’Brien and Pope also emphasized that local voters will get the chance to decide whether they want to participate.

Most of the beneficiaries would be veterans age 60 or older who were not always completely disabled but suffered combat injuries that have become more debilitating with age, O’Brien said.

While Pope and O’Brien said they have encountered little resistance to the proposal, it does have detractors.

The BGR announced its opposition this week, saying it is against a provision in the amendment preventing local governments from replacing lost revenue through other measures. The bureau also argues that the federal government is the proper entity to provide benefits for veterans and that the proposal unfairly excludes veterans who don’t own property, or the families of service members killed in action.

The Council for a Better Louisiana, another government watchdog group that customarily studies and takes positions on constitutional amendments, also will oppose this one, said Barry Erwin, CABL president.

“Every time you do that, you shift the tax burden from one group to another,” Erwin said. “It’s just a non-ending process.”

He said CABL is sympathetic to disabled veterans but has consistently opposed creating special exceptions on property taxes.

Erwin argued the state’s standard $75,000 homestead exemption is already one of the most generous breaks in the country and that the proposal doesn’t seem to stem from any particular problem veterans have faced paying their property taxes.

“For us it’s more of a matter of principle,” Erwin said. “When do you stop this type of thing?”

Oct 20, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: On the Ballot, Taxation & Assessments

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