Early voting started Monday, and as Texans head to the polls, they will find seven statewide propositions on their ballot. This week at Burnt Orange Report, we’re taking a look at each of these proposed amendments to the constitution. On Monday we reviewed Proposition 1, which would slightly reduce property taxes by increasing the homestead exemption. Proposition 2 is also related to property taxes, but for a significantly more narrow population.
Here’s the language for Proposition 2 as it will appear on your ballot:
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 100 percent or totally disabled veteran who died before the law authorizing a residence homestead exemption for such a veteran took effect.
Over five years ago, voters in Texas approved a constitutional amendment giving full property tax relief to veterans who are 100% disabled, but this didn’t extend to the surviving family members should that veteran pass away.
Four years later, in 2011, the legislature approved a measure aimed at ensuring that the spouses of these veterans would still have access to the property tax exemption in the event of the veteran’s death. Speaking to KUT‘s Matt Largey in 2011, then-State Senator Leticia Van de Putte explained why expanding this relief to the surviving spouse made sense: “As you know, it’s not just the service member that serves in the armed forces, it’s the entire family.” And that service continues even after the veteran returns home, Van de Putte continued, saying “Particularly with a service member who was 100 percent disabled – that spouse has spent a good number of years caring for that disabled veteran.”
Though the constitutional amendment was approved by voters, it ran into a snag which this year’s Proposition 2 aims to fix.
As KUT‘s Ben Philpott reports, then – Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled that the amendment would not extend to those spouses whose loved ones had died before the 2009 law went into effect.
Ellit Sprehe, from the public affairs division of the Texas Veteran’s Commission, told KUT: “This proposition basically will rectify that, in that it’ll make retroactively surviving spouses of totally disabled veterans receive equitable property tax relief.”
In their Voter’s Guide, Progress Texas adds that the measure will impact around 3,800 surviving spouses.
As is the case with any form of tax cut, this amendment would reduce the available revenue for the state. KUT reports that expanding this property tax exemption would cost the state $1.2 million in 2017 when it first goes into effect, and would then increase to around $6.5 million a year.
According to Progress Texas, the legislation passed to accompany Proposition 2 has safeguards to ensure that “there is no disproportionate impact on any one community or school district that may have a uniquely large number of people eligible for this tax break within the community.”
Whatever school districts may lose through this exemption will have to be covered by the state.
Texans can vote early from October 19th through the 30th. Locations and hours vary by county, so voters should contact their county’s elections division for more information on when and where they can vote. Election Day is November 3rd.
Questions about what you need to be able to vote? Visit the Secretary of State’s website here for more information.