Texas Disabled Veteran Residence Tax Exemption Amendment, Proposition 4 (2013)

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Proposition 4
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Texas Constitution
Referred by:Texas State Legislature
Topic:Taxes
Status:Approved Approveda
The Texas Disabled Veteran Residence Tax Exemption Amendment, Proposition 4 was on the November 5, 2013 ballot in Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. It was approved.

The measure granted the legislature authorization to provide property tax exemptions to partially disabled veterans or their surviving spouses on part of the market value of their residence homesteads if the homesteads were donated to the veteran by a charity. This measure was sponsored in the legislature by Rep. Charles Perry (R-83) as House Joint Resolution 24 (timed out).[1] HB 97 was the enabling legislation for HJR 24.[2]

Election results

See also: 2013 ballot measure election results

Below are the official election results:

Texas Proposition 4
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 965,377 85.14%
No168,43514.85%
These results are from the Texas Secretary of State.

Background

Prior to the approval of Proposition 4, Section 1, Article VIII of the Texas Constitution permitted the legislature to provide certain tax exemptions for disabled veterans, including:[3]

  • Provide an exemption from property taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran
  • Extend the exemption permitted for the residence of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran to the residence of the surviving spouse of the veteran under certain circumstances
  • Authorize a partial exemption, in a specified amount based on specified disability groupings, for any property owned by a disabled veteran, as well as to provides certain property tax benefits for the families of the veteran.

Prop 4 gave the legislature authority to create an additional exemption from property taxes for partially disabled veterans. This new exemption was based on a percentage of the market value of a partially disabled veteran's residence, equal to the percentage of disability of the veteran if the residence was donated to the veteran by a charitable organization at no cost to the veteran.[3]

Texas Secretary of State John Steen selected the order of the nine ballot measures for 2013 at random. The nine approved amendments were added to the Texas Constitution, the longest state constitution in the country. As of 2011, the state legislature has put 653 amendments before voters since 1876, of which 474 were passed.[4] LWV-Texas Education Fund Chair Linda Krefting, had this to say about the nine constitutional amendments: "The issues at stake affect all Texans now and in the future, from property tax exemptions to funding the water state plan. Given the significance of the issues and relative permanence of constitutional amendments, voters need to understand each of the propositions to cast an informed vote."[5]

Enabling legislation

Proposition 4 was placed on the ballot via HJR 24. However, HB 97 was the enabling legislation for HJR 24. Enabling legislation is a bill passed into law by the Texas Legislature that authorizes an exemption for prior contracts or bids.[6] HB 97 will take effect January 1, 2014, as Prop 4 was approved by voters. HB 97 amends Chapter 11 of the tax code. This amendment created an avenue by which the stipulations laid out in Prop 4 can be implemented.[7][8][9] Read more about enabling legislation here.

Text of measure

Ballot summary

The ballot was printed to permit voting for or against the proposition:[10]

The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization.

[11]

Constitutional changes

Proposition 4 amended Article VIII, Section 1-b, subsection j-l of the Texas Constitution to read:

Text of Section 1-b: Residence Homestead Exemption

§(j) The legislature by general law may provide that the surviving spouse of a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran who qualified for an exemption in accordance with Subsection (i) of this section from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the disabled veteran's residence homestead when the disabled veteran died is entitled to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the same portion of the market value of the same property to which the disabled veteran's exemption applied if:

(1) the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the disabled veteran; and
(2) the property:
(A) was the residence homestead of the surviving spouse when the disabled veteran died; and
(B) remains the residence homestead of the surviving spouse.

§(k) The legislature by general law may provide that if a surviving spouse who qualifies for an exemption in accordance with Subsection (j) of this section subsequently qualifies a different property as the surviving spouse's residence homestead, the surviving spouse is entitled to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the subsequently qualified homestead in an amount equal to the dollar amount of the exemption from ad valorem taxation of the former homestead in accordance with Subsection (j) of this section in the last year in which the surviving spouse received an exemption in accordance with that subsection for that homestead if the surviving spouse has not remarried since the death of the disabled veteran.

§(l) The legislature by general law may provide that a partially disabled veteran is entitled to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of a percentage of the market value of the disabled veteran's residence homestead that is equal to the percentage of disability of the disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization at no cost to the disabled veteran. The legislature by general law may provide additional eligibility requirements for the exemption. For purposes of this subsection, "partially disabled veteran" means a disabled veteran as described by Section 2(b) of this article who is certified as having a disability rating of less than 100 percent. A limitation or restriction on a disabled veteran's entitlement to an exemption under Section 2(b) of this article, or on the amount of an exemption under Section 2(b), does not apply to an exemption under this subsection.


Fiscal impact statement

According to the Fiscal Impact Statement for HJR 24, which was released on May 15, 2013, "No fiscal implication to the State is anticipated resulting from adoption of the proposed constitutional amendment alone, other than the cost of publication. Any fiscal impact would depend on the corresponding enabling legislation. The cost to the state for publication of the resolution is $108,921."[12] According to the fiscal note for HB 97 - HJR 24's enabling legislation - which was released on May 23, 2013, "No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated. No significant fiscal implication to units of local government is anticipated."[13]

Support

The measure was sponsored by Representatives Perry, Guillen (D-31) and Van de Putte (D-26).[1] The measure was passed unanimously by both chambers of the Texas legislature.[14]

Arguments

The arguments presented in favor of Prop 4 in the state's official voter guide were constructed by the Texas Legislative Council. The arguments featured were based on comments made about the amendment during the legislative process and generally summarized the main arguments supporting the amendment. They read as follows:[3]

  • "The legislature has recognized the sacrifices made by 100 percent disabled veterans and their surviving spouses by granting a property tax exemption for the total appraised value of the veteran's residence homestead, but there is no corresponding exemption for veterans with only a partial disability. Because of the method used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to determine disability ratings, a veteran who otherwise would qualify for a 100 percent disability rating may find that rating lowered unexpectedly, with an attendant reduction in disability payments, for a variety of reasons, such as doing charitable work, despite suffering from a service-related condition or injury that limits employment opportunities. Basing a property tax exemption for disabled veterans on a 100 percent disability rating may lead to similarly situated disabled veterans, though equally deserving, not receiving the benefits of a tax exemption."[3]
  • "Many Texas home builders and charitable organizations honor disabled veterans by donating homes to those facing the challenge of transitioning from military service to civilian life, and there is growing interest in encouraging home donations statewide. However, the blessing of a donated home can become a burden if the recipient cannot pay the resulting property taxes because disability payments are insufficient and the veteran's service-related disability precludes earned income through gainful employment."[3]
  • "The proposed amendment would enable the recipient disabled veteran or surviving spouse to remain in the donated home with the ensuing freedom to pursue an education, find a suitable job or start a business."[3]

According to the League of Women Voters of Texas, which offered both support and opposition arguments for the measure, arguments in support of the measure included:[15]

  • "Texas charitable organizations have given homes to disabled veterans, but in some cases the veteran is unable to pay the property taxes, resulting in an unintended consequence of foreclosure. These veterans have sacrificed for our country and are deserving of help. The cost of the exemption is small because only a dozen or so homes per year are donated cost-free to disabled veterans. Partially disabled veterans who received these homes are not likely to return to full employment and need help with their taxes."[15]

Other arguments included:

  • Empower Texans supported Proposition 4. They said, "When Texas charities make homes accessible for disabled veterans, those families should not then be hammered by undue property tax burdens."[16]

Opposition

Texas Constitution
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Preamble
Articles
12
3 (1-43)3 (44-49)3 (50-67)
4567891011121314151617

According to the Texas Legislative Council's Official Voter Guide, which was compiled by the Texas Legislative Council:[3]

  • "No comments opposing the proposed amendment were made during the house and senate committee hearings or during debate on the amendment in the House and Senate chambers. However, a review of other sources indicated concern that singling out specific groups for property tax exemptions could erode local property tax bases and undermine uniformity in taxation."[3]

According to the League of Women Voters of Texas, which offered both support and opposition arguments for the measure, arguments in opposition to the measure included:[15]

  • "Singling out one group for special tax exemption status, even though deserving, raises issues of uniformity in taxation and could open the door to continued erosion of the tax base."[15]
  • "If the purpose of the bill is to help partially disabled veterans keep their homes while they are unable to pay property taxes, the exemption should not be permanent. It should expire when the veteran can afford to pay property taxes."[15]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Texas ballot measures, 2013

Support

  • The Dallas Morning News said, "Prop 4 seeks to ease the tax burden on donated homes given to fully disabled veterans. This newspaper has lauded the charitable organizations that donate such houses because it’s wrong just to tell disabled vets, “Thanks for your service,” and then send them on their way. Fully disabled veterans face extreme hardship finding proper housing. The last thing they need is a big tax bill after a handicap-friendly house is donated... Approval is the least Texans can do to show their appreciation."[17]
  • Houston Chronicle said, "This amendment authorizes the Legislature to provide a homestead exemption to a totally disabled veteran or the veteran's surviving spouse. The amendment also provides an exemption to a disabled veteran or surviving spouse if the homestead has been donated by a charitable organization at no cost to the veteran. The two-year financial burden to taxpayers from both this measure and Proposition 1 would amount to less than $100,000."[18]
  • The San Antonio Express News said that it is "for" Prop 4. This publication supported all nine of the proposed constitutional amendments.[19]
  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram said, "Proposition 4 would allow partial exemptions matching the disability ratings of veterans whose service-related disabilities are less than 100 percent. Surviving spouses could retain the exemption until they remarry...The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends votes for propositions 1, 2, 4 and 8."[20]
  • The Burnt Orange Report endorsed Prop 4, saying, "This is an important measure that will help disabled veterans stay in homes provided for them by charitable organizations. We enthusiastically endorse a vote FOR Proposition 4 in the November 2013 constitutional amendment elections."[21]

Opposition

  • The Austin Chronicle said, "Although the words "disabled veteran" assures passage, this amendment is more about incentivizing "charitable" giveaways (for corporate tax write-offs) than supporting veterans."[22]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Texas Constitution

A 2/3rds vote in both chambers of the Texas State Legislature is required to refer an amendment to the ballot. Texas is one of sixteen states that requires this. Since the bill is a joint resolution, it does not require the governor's signature before being placed on the ballot.

The Texas House of Representatives passed the amendment on May 7, 2013, with a vote of 144 to 0. The Texas State Senate then passed the amendment on May 22, 2013, with a vote of 31 to 0.[14]

Texas Disabled Veteran Residence Tax Exemption Amendment, HJR 24 House Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 144 100%
No00%
Texas Disabled Veteran Residence Tax Exemption Amendment, HJR 24 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 31 100%
No00%

See also

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External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 OpenStates.org, "HJR 24: Texas House Joint Resolution - Proposing a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization," accessed May 30, 2013
  2. North Texas Citizens Lobby, "9 Proposed Amendments – Put Through the Constitutional Test," accessed November 1, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Texas Legislative Council's Official Voter Guide, "Amendment No. 4, HJR 24," accessed October 14, 2013
  4. Legislative Reference Library of Texas, "Constitutional Amendments," accessed September 26, 2013
  5. The Gilmer Mirror Online, "Texas Voters Will Decide: Whether to Approve Property Tax Exemptions Related to Military Service," September 5, 2013
  6. Texas Secretary of State, "Texas Administrative Code: Title 34, Part 1, Chapter 3, Subchapter O," accessed October 25, 2013
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ntcl
  8. Texas Legislature Online, "FISCAL NOTE, 83RD LEGISLATIVE REGULAR SESSION," May 23, 2013
  9. Texas Legislature Online, "Text HB 97," accessed October 28, 2013
  10. Texas State Legislature, "H.J.R. No. 24," accessed May 30, 2013 (timed out)
  11. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  12. Texas Legislature Online, "FISCAL NOTE, 83RD LEGISLATIVE REGULAR SESSION," May 15, 2013
  13. Texas Legislature Online, "FISCAL NOTE, 83RD LEGISLATIVE REGULAR SESSION," May 23, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 Texas House of Representatives, "History of House Joint Resolution 42," accessed August 21, 2013
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 The League of Women Voters of Texas, "Voter Information," accessed October 7, 2013
  16. Empower Texans, "Recommendations: Texas Constitutional Amendments," October 17, 2013
  17. The Dallas Morning News, "Editorial: Propositions 1 and 4 for vets deserve passage," October 3, 2013
  18. Houston Chronicle, "Our take on the proposed constitutional amendments," October 15, 2013
  19. San Antonio Express, "Vote early in amendment election," October 18, 2013
  20. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "On amendments, four easy choices," October 15, 2013
  21. Burnt Orange Report, "Burnt Orange Report Endorses A Vote FOR Statewide Proposition 4," October 17, 2013
  22. The Austin Chronicle, "'Chronicle' Endorsements," October 18, 2013