Many disabled Ohio veterans will get some property tax relief, thanks to a bill Gov. John Kasich has signed into law.
House Bill 85, which was sponsored jointly by state Reps. Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati) and Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville), increases the amount of the homestead exemption for military veterans who are 100 percent disabled from a service-related disability from $25,000 to $50,000. It also ensures that county veterans service commissions do not lose funding from the loss of property tax revenue and exempts disabled veterans from means testing, said Christopher Corder, Gonzales' legislative aide.
Jerry Kerr, commander of Tri-Community VFW Post 4719 in Gahanna and senior vice commander of District 11, said the bill would be a huge financial benefit for a lot of disabled veterans.
Previously, anyone over age 65 or someone who has been permanently disabled could qualify for a $25,000 deduction off the assessment of their home's value for property tax purposes.
After the state operating budget was passed, Kerr said, a requirement was added that the person also must make less than $30,000 a year. This inadvertently eliminated veterans with a 100 percent disability rating as they could make about $33,000 annually in disability benefits.
He said the bill is designed to add all disabled veterans to the list of individuals who may apply for the homestead tax exemption, as well as increase their deduction from $25,000 to $50,000. This means a disabled veteran who qualifies would have to pay taxes on only $100,000 of a home valued at $150,000.
"The $50,000 figure was a compromise between interested parties as some wanted to exempt veterans from all taxes and others wanted to just allow them the $25,000 deduction," Kerr said
He testified earlier this year before the House Finance and Appropriations Committee regarding the bill.
As a Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran and a member of several veterans organizations, Kerr said, he has met veterans affected by service-connected disabilities.
"I have heard stories of how these disabilities hindered their lives and caused much pain and difficulty in living a normal life, as compared to healthy individuals who are able to be gainfully employed and provide the financial means for their families," he told the committee. "Our disabled veterans answered the call when asked to serve. As our nation provides for these veterans through VA benefits, Ohio can show its appreciation by enhancing the homestead exemption for (all) disabled veterans."
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 8,000 permanently disabled veterans in Ohio meet the service-related disability requirement for tax exemption under the bill.
Terhar said he was glad the House bill was passed before summer recess so permanently disabled veterans could stay in their homes.
"This legislation is important not only for our state but (also) to the country," Terhar said.
Gonzales said the bill is the product of months of work with interested parties and creates a benefit that is competitive with neighboring states while being fiscally responsible.
Kerr said Gonzales has been a true supporter of veterans by sponsoring several bills designed to provide veterans with new and additional benefits.
The Ohio House of Representatives on June 3 concurred with Senate changes to HB 85. The Senate included an amendment to the bill, requiring the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to confirm that a veteran is fully disabled and another to specify the program would begin in tax year 2014.
Kasich signed the bill June 12.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 47 other states provide some property tax relief for veterans who are completely and/or permanently disabled.