In 2009, Texas legislators created a law allowing for an ad valorem tax break on homesteads for disabled veterans. In 2011, the law was amended to include the surviving spouses of disabled veterans to continue receiving tax relief.
This year, part of the Cameron County Commissioners Court’s agenda for the 83rd Legislature is to amend the law so that all honorably discharged veterans could receive tax relief.
And state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-San Benito, listened and filed a bill last Friday that would do just that.
House Joint Resolution 134 and Senate Joint Resolution 59 would exempt veterans from paying taxes on at least $10,000 of homestead property value.
During a March 2 special meeting to discuss the legislative agenda, County Judge Carlos Cascos said every veteran should get some kind of relief because people need to put a value on freedom.
“Giving veterans and their surviving spouses some property tax relief is the least we can do, considering all they have done and continue to do to ensure that our country maintains the liberties and freedoms we all enjoy today,” he said in a news release from Sen. Lucio’s office announcing the bill.
Under the bill, a veteran would be exempt from at least $10,000 of homestead property value. County governments would be able to increase the amount of the exemption up to $75,000 of homestead property value. If a county government raises the property tax exemption, it may not lower the exemption in the future. Veterans are not permitted to couple this exemption with any other property tax exemptions.
And while all the commissioners at the special meeting said they support veterans, Precinct 3 Commissioner David Garza wondered whether giving the exemption was wise given the economy.
“I just love to see how people give money away and then we don’t have any more,” he said. “At some point the right hand needs to talk to the left hand.
“I support veterans 100 percent; we wouldn’t be where we are without them.”
Garza said that according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs there were 18,000 veterans in Cameron County as of November 2012.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Sofia C. Benavides asked whether the county studied the economic impact of a rise in the exemption for veterans.
Cascos said it hadn’t.
“This is not our county alone,” Cascos said. “This is everybody in the state. I don’t see anyone really coming out and opposing it.”
Rep. Lucio said it was important to him to carry the bill.
“Men and women in uniform deserve this courtesy and respect,” Rep. Lucio said in a news release. “Veterans have put their lives on hold and on the line to protect our way of life, and this bill is the least we can do to show our gratitude.”
Sen. Lucio concurred.
“This bill is about giving back to those brave men and women who have themselves given so much to our country,” Sen. Lucio said in a news release. “Thank you to Cameron County Judge Cascos and members of the county commissioners court for proposing this important piece of legislation.”
Mark Reagan writes for The Brownsville Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.
AT A GLANCE
Texas veteran population as of Nov. 30, 2012:
>> Total: 1,675,689
>> Wartime veterans: 1,293,260
>> Gulf War: 572,355
>> Vietnam: 560,927
>> World War II: 87,059
>> Peacetime: 382,429
>> Female: 188,050
>> Male: 1,487,639
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs