Advocates seek homestead exemption to provide property tax relief for partially disabled veterans
LINCOLN — Providing homestead exemptions to more disabled veterans would move Nebraska closer to becoming the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, a legislative committee said Friday.
To that end, James Shuey, representing American Veterans with Disabilities, urged the revenue committee to reconsider an exemption proposal that died earlier this year due to its estimated cost of $64 million.
Shuey disputed some of the assumptions used when estimating the costs of Legislative Bill 853. But he also said there would be ways to reduce the price while helping disabled veterans pay property taxes on Their houses.
He said the proposal shouldn’t be seen as a “budget-buster,” especially given Nebraska’s strong economy and 2% annual decline in the number of surviving veterans.
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LB 853 was introduced by State Senator Jen Day of Omaha. This would have expanded the state’s homestead exemption program, under which the state covers the cost of property taxes for certain groups of homeowners. These include low-income seniors, low-income people with certain disabilities, and some veterans.
Currently, the program provides 100% property tax exemptions to veterans with 100% service-related disabilities, regardless of income or home value.
Day sought to grant partial exemptions to veterans with service-related disabilities rated at 50% up to 99%. Under BA 853, the amount of the exemption would have matched the amount of the disability, so a veteran with a 70% disability would get a 70% exemption.
At Friday’s interim review hearing, she said the cost of the new exemption could be reduced by applying income limits or limits on home value or both.
Ryan McIntosh, a lobbyist for the National Guard Association of Nebraska, said he thought adding revenue caps would be a reasonable approach.
Shuey suggested the state set exemptions for all disabled veterans at a flat rate, based on their degree of disability. He said the exemptions could easily be adjusted in the future.
He said there were more than 39,000 veterans in Nebraska with less than 100% disability. Of these, about half are 65 or older and may already qualify for a homestead exemption based on age and income.