By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – California lawmakers passed two separate measures proposing expansions on tax exemptions for disabled military veterans on Thursday.
Senate Bill 1073, authored by Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, would provide partial property tax exemptions for a principal residence owned by a partially-disabled veteran. The bill would set the amount of partial exemption as the percentage equivalent to the disabled veteran’s disability rating percentage issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or the military service from which the veteran was discharged.
Under the California Constitution, the Legislature can partially or wholly exempt the value of a disabled veteran’s principal residence from property tax “if the veteran has lost two or more limbs, is totally blind, or is totally disabled as a result of a service-connected injury,” according to a bill analysis. A veteran who is considered partially disabled – even with a 50% disabled rating – is ineligible for a property tax reduction based on their disability rating alone, Sen. Grove told lawmakers on Thursday.
Sen. Grove estimated Thursday that over 376,000 veterans living in California have less than a 100% disabled rating, meaning they are currently ineligible for the state’s property tax exemption. She added that California represented 31% of the nation’s homeless veterans population and has the highest number of veterans experiencing homeless at nearly 11,500 people, according to a 2020 report from the Senate Housing Committee.
“SB 1073 could be that saving grace for that veteran helping them to keep their home and get them through the hardship until they can get back on their feet,” Sen. Grove told lawmakers.
The Board of Equalization estimates that SB 1073 would allow veteran taxpayers to keep $194 million annually, according to an analysis of the bill. Sen. Grove’s bill passed the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance in a 5-0 vote on Thursday and faced no opposition.
The committee also voted to advance Senate Bill 1357 by Sen. Bob Archuleta, D-Pico Rivera, on Thursday. If enacted, it will increase property tax exemptions for disabled veterans.
Under SB 1357, a veteran with a 100% disabled rating and their spouse would qualify for a full exemption from property tax. The bill would also provide a partial exemption for a veteran who is blind in both eyes, lost two or more limbs due to service, and has a disability rating under 100%. In these instances, the taxpayer could claim a partial exemption equal to $700,000 multiplied by the veteran’s disability rating.
For example, a taxpayer with a 70% disability rating would be eligible for a $490,000 exemption.
Under existing law, disabled veterans who qualify for exemptions from property taxes due to a 100% disability rating receive exemptions based on income. Based on income level, 100% disabled veterans are eligible for a $100,000 or $150,000 reduction. Sen. Archuleta’s bill would allow those individuals to claim a full exemption.
“Senate Bill 1357 seeks to make California more affordable and livable for the men and women who have served our great nation and sacrificed so very much,” Sen. Archuleta told lawmakers. “California must do more to ensure our veterans can afford to live in our great state while striving to end the veteran homelessness that we see everywhere we go.”
Speaking in support of the bill, Michael Barret, a retired Marine and 100% disabled veteran who suffered several injuries after an IED attack in 2004, told lawmakers Thursday that he and many other veterans living in California are considering moving to other states that already waive the property tax for veterans. Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Virginia and Hawaii are among the states that allow a full exemption from property taxes for 100% disabled veterans.
“I truly hate that myself and my family are faced with a decision like this. We love California, we want to live in California, we want to remain positive productive citizens and work very hard here in California,” Mr. Barret told lawmakers. “Passing Senate Bill 1357 comes as a sign of hope, a sign that veterans and families can afford to purchase a home, thrive in our community post-military service and grow as a family in the wonderful state of California.”
The bill passed in a 5-0 vote on Thursday. Both Sen. Grove and Sen. Archuleta’s measures were referred to the Committee on Veteran Affairs.