There is a new HB 2 and it’s a fair bet that Gov. Roy Cooper will love it. He most likely will not work behind the scenes with militant LGBT groups against the best interests of the state on this one.
But state and county governments may not like the measure.
Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) has filed HB 2 in this legislative session. The bill is titled Provide Certain Property Relief. Its aim is to help first responders, their families and others by giving relief from property taxes in certain scenarios.
Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) is a primary sponsor of the bill. He was a guest on the “What Matters in North Carolina” podcast on Friday, Jan. 27. Hardister said, “This bill basically would waive the property tax for the spouse of a first responder who died in the line of duty. That would be emergency medical personnel, a firefighter, a law enforcement officer.”
Hardister added, “The benefit is also extended for disabled veterans who are one hundred percent disabled. If they die, then the property taxes for their spouse is waived.” Currently property taxes are waived for these veterans up to a cap of $45,000 of the appraised value of the residence. The bill would remove that cap.
Dollar was a guest on “What Matters in North Carolina” on Jan. 31 and explained why he filed the bill. Dollar said, “It seems to me that now is a good time to really reaffirm for our veterans who have been at war for quite some time – if you look back over the last decade and the conflicts they’ve been in. And for our hometown heroes, folks that are constantly having to put themselves on the line for us in our communities, it seemed the appropriate time to do this.”
Dollar said that he has received a number of very positive responses from colleagues and constituents about the bill, although there have been some concerns expressed by cities and towns from their perspective about the loss of tax revenue.
While the bill has a “feel-good” sense to it, there is the issue of lost property tax revenue to consider.
Kevin Leonard, Executive Director of NC Association of County Commissioners said, “We’ve not talked to Rep. Dollar about it. Certainly we all support helping those who put their lives on the line. We’re all for the bill as long as they can figure out a way to replace lost revenue created by those exemptions.”
Leonard said that when property tax revenue goes down counties are left with either having to cut services or raise taxes on those who are still paying. Cutting services would likely hurt those who were intended to be helped originally by the bill.
In response Dollar said, “First and foremost when you look at who we are serving in this bill, [they are] veterans who have fought to protect the freedoms of our very country, the freedoms of our very communities and are now 100 percent disabled in service to our nation. Or when you talk about first responders, for example, a police officer that dies in the line of duty and makes that supreme sacrifice for the safety of these very communities. I would think that whether it’s county commissioners or the league of municipalities, that they would recognize the sacrifices that are being made and certainly be willing to provide what really – when you look at the total dollars – is relatively small amounts spread across the state, and is a very small amount of money when you consider the level of sacrifice.”
Dollar said that he looks forward to talking with those groups who have concerns and listening to those concerns. In the end he is confident that the bill will have very strong support all across the state.
Francis De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute, agrees that honoring those who serve is a good thing, but questions the proposal in the bill and called it an unfunded mandate on local governments. De Luca said, “One of the guiding principles of Civitas is for government to treat all of its citizens equally. This bill, while maybe well-intentioned, violates that principle by creating a benefit for a narrow class of citizens at the expense of other local property tax payers. If the legislature believes it has to pass what is essentially a feel-good bill, that would undoubtedly help a few people, and will look good in campaign literature, it should make the state, not the locality, bear the cost.”
“While I don’t think this bill is needed, they could instead of passing another unfunded mandate giving away other people’s money, have the state give the targeted individuals a refundable state tax credit equal to their home’s local property tax bill,” he said. “In this way the legislature can realistically weigh the need for this bill against other priorities. The way the bill is currently structured it imposes no costs on the state, creates another unfunded mandate, and does not require legislators to weigh this against other priorities. It is always easy to give away other people’s money.”
To clarify that his position is about the legislation and not dismissive to the sacrifices made by veterans or emergency personnel De Luca added, “And before you say I hate veterans or law enforcement, I served over 30 years in the military and know many disabled veterans.”
The bill has been sent to the House Committee on State and Local Government.