New Mexico Property Tax Exemption, Measure 4 (2004)

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The New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 4 was on the 2004 ballot in New Mexico as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment where it was approved.[1]

Election results

Amendment 4
Approveda Yes 452,386 68%

Ballot summary

Constitutional Amendment 4 proposes to amend Article 8, Section 5 of the constitution of New Mexico to expand eligibility for exemption from the property tax to all honorably discharged veterans of the armed forces of the United States. Without the amendment, eligibility for the exemption is limited to honorably discharged veterans who served in times of armed conflict.

Supporting Arguments

1. The constitution of New Mexico distinguishes honorably discharged veterans on the basis of whether they served during periods of armed conflict for the purpose of allowing them to claim a property tax exemption. However, members of the armed services have no control over whether they will serve during a period of armed conflict. Further, all members of the armed forces serve and protect the country by putting themselves in harm's way and risking their lives if necessary. In addition, some members, while they do not engage in combat, serve during times of high alert, such as during the cold war and the Cuban missile crisis. The fact that all veterans were at some point ready and able to engage in armed conflict should be sufficient to grant them equivalent benefits. Their service is needed and should be rewarded.

2. Providing property tax exemptions to all honorably discharged veterans encourages enlistment and good conduct in the United States military.

3. The expansion of the veterans' property tax exemption is a small token of appreciation for all those who served their country in the military. The expanded exemption might especially benefit elderly veterans who are now or will soon be living on fixed incomes, since their property taxes may keep rising even though their income does not.

4. The proposed amendment will eliminate the time and resources the state must expend in verifying whether a specific veteran claiming the exemption served during a time of armed conflict.

5. The relatively low dollar level of this exemption means that the expansion to include all veterans will not be particularly costly. It is estimated that the amendment will reduce the residential property tax base by no more than one percent. In addition, any impact on either state or local revenues will be minimal because the loss in tax base will be largely offset by rate increases for residential taxpayers.

6. A veteran who has served during a time of armed conflict has not necessarily better served the country than a veteran who served at a time during which armed conflict did not occur. Favorable tax treatment for veterans who served during a time of armed conflict misrepresents the comparative value of service provided. The proposed constitutional amendment equalizes tax benefits for veterans.

7. The special exemption for veterans was established in 1921 as a way of recognizing the special contribution and sacrifice of those who served in our armed forces during World War I. Since that time, the nation's need for a permanent army has expanded, and it is appropriate to extend this exemption to all veterans, whether or not the country was engaged in armed conflict during their period of service.

8. In years past, many of the veterans who served during periods of armed conflict did so by conscription. Since the end of the draft, however, the military has been comprised of those who have chosen to serve their country, and the exemption is an expression of appreciation for their choice.[2]

Opposing Arguments

1. This amendment removes an appropriate distinction between those who have served during times of armed conflict and those who have not. Veterans who were willing to risk their lives deserve special recognition. To be meaningful as an expression of the state's gratitude, the exemption should continue to be restricted to those veterans who have served during a period of armed conflict.

2. State and local governments should not have to bear the expense of compensating an individual for service to the nation. This is a national responsibility, not a state or local responsibility. More generous military retirement benefits are the appropriate way to reward veterans. The 2004 estimated budget for veterans' federal benefits and services is already $62 billion. If we believe more compensation is due to a veteran and his or her spouse, we should ask our representatives in congress to provide it.

3. This exemption may have made sense in the days when the military draft was in effect, but today we have a volunteer military. There is no longer any reason to treat persons who served in the military differently than others. We should not extend a special benefit to someone who happens to choose the armed forces as a job.

4. The special exemption for veterans was established in 1921 as a way of recognizing the special contribution and sacrifice of those who served in our armed forces during World War I and at a time when veterans did not receive benefits from the federal government. Today, veterans receive $62 billion in federal benefits. Eliminating the armed conflict requirement removes the basis for the veterans' exemption and provides an unnecessary additional benefit to veterans who receive federal money.

5. By expanding this property tax exemption, the property tax bills of other New Mexico residents will increase. The tax burden is shifted to all other taxpayers.

6. Tax relief measures should be targeted to individuals based on need. There is no evidence that veterans as a group have lower income or a greater need for tax relief than other groups of taxpayers. Is it good public policy for wealthy veterans with large, high-value homes to be relieved from contributing their share? If additional property tax relief is to be granted, it might be better targeted to low-income taxpayers who spend a disproportionate share of their income on property taxes.

7. The property tax is based on the value and nature of the property, not on the personal characteristics of the owner. Creating an exemption for certain individuals is a departure from the underlying principle of property taxation and could set a precedent for other groups to seek similar exemptions.

8. This amendment may prove more costly than anticipated, since many New Mexicans have served some period of time in the armed forces, and the exemption also applies to widows and widowers.[3]

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