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Election information: Proposition 1

Oct. 10, 2013 at 5:10 a.m.


Editor's Note: The Advocate is offering information about the upcoming constitutional amendment election Nov. 5. This feature, provided by the League of Women Voters, will look at the pros and cons of each of the nine amendments on the ballot. This is a look at Proposition 1.

Official ballot language:

The constitutional amendment authorizing the Legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action.

Explanation:

The proposed amendment would allow the surviving spouse of a member of the U.S. armed services who was killed in action to be exempt from paying local property taxes based on all or part of the total appraised value of the homestead. This proposed amendment follows prior amendments that have passed, granting property tax exemptions to veterans who are 100 percent disabled and their surviving spouses.

Under Proposition 1 and its enabling bill SB 163, a surviving spouse is eligible if he or she has not remarried since the death of the spouse who served in the armed forces and if the qualifying homestead was the residence of the spouse at the time of death. Upon remarriage, the surviving spouse would lose the property tax exemption. The surviving spouse would be able to transfer the exemption to a new homestead, but it would be limited to the dollar amount of the prior homestead exemption.

Arguments for:

• The proposed amendment would allow local governments in Texas to assist surviving spouses of U.S. armed services members who have been killed in action by providing valuable relief during such a difficult time. Surviving spouses who qualify would be able to save money on property taxes and could use this money elsewhere.

• Surviving spouses would be able to transfer the exemption to a new residence if the surviving spouse chose to move within the state.

Arguments against:

• School districts would receive less revenue from property taxes, so the state would have to cover the reduction by pulling from state general revenue, creating a cost to the state.

• Local governments would lose revenue, especially in cities and towns where military families largely populate the area. This would result in a projected yearly loss of up to $84,000 from counties, $93,000 from cities and $45,000 from school districts by 2018 (SB 163 Fiscal Note). An increase in the number of people who receive property tax exemptions might require local governments to increase taxes for other taxpayers.

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