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On Florida Amendment 2: Vote yes

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Sixth in a series

On the Nov. 6 ballot, Amendment 2 would permit partially or totally permanently disabled veterans, age 65 or older, to receive a special homestead property exemption if they moved to Florida after they entered the military. The amendment would:

Expand the availability of an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for veterans who become disabled following a combat injury.

Correct an inequity by providing a modest tax exemption to veterans who are now Florida residents, an exemption that is already available to veterans who were Florida residents when they entered the military.

Provide that the size of the tax break will depend on the veteran’s percentage of disability and severity, and the amount of time served overseas.

Take effect Jan. 1, 2013, and would have a minimal fiscal impact on Florida’s budget — $14.9 million statewide spread over the first three years, and $7.6 million annually thereafter.

If this property tax exemption passes, it doesn’t mean that local governments will “lose” the projected annual savings to disabled veterans. Local governments can increase the millage rate to make up for the lost tax revenue, in which case the savings to veterans would be made up by other property owners.

The downside of this amendment is that it creates yet another convolution in Florida’s inequitable property tax system. Opponents of the amendment make the valid point that Florida’s tax system is too complex, and gives too many tax breaks to certain groups. Some would say that if we want to help disabled veterans, we should cut taxes for everyone.

Florida’s tax inequitability also enters the picture, for example, under the Save Our Homes law, because residents in homes of identical market value may pay significantly different taxes than their neighbors for identical government services.

This and other growing tax inequities call for a complete review of the state’s property tax structure. Until that is done, some would maintain we do not need to introduce additional wrinkles and complexities.

But here’s the problem with that argument: Any significant tax reforms in Florida are most likely years away. Providing a tax discount to disabled veterans would offer a small reward for those who have sacrificed for our country. There’s no reason to ignore the plight of disabled veterans and deny them tax relief just because government hasn’t gotten around to correcting the flaws in the system.

Vote Yes on Amendment 2 if you want to give an additional tax break to Florida homeowners who are disabled veterans, age 65 or older.

John R. Smith

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