Published in the Manistee News Advocate October 4, 2016
By CAITLIN DeLUCA
Capital News Service
LANSING — A bill to increase the number of disabled veterans receiving property tax exemptions faces cautious resistance from local governments that would lose revenue if it passes.
And representatives of some veterans groups sympathize with their position.
The bill would broaden the exemption to include unmarried surviving spouses of veterans and residential or agricultural real property used as a homestead by the veteran or the surviving spouse.
As it stands, even wealthy individuals qualify.
Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, co-sponsor of the bill, said it shows veterans respect.
“Veterans today are treated less in dignity … than some of the immigrants that come over the border illegally,” Lucido said.
“If you give them a little bit of a tax break on their propery, you’re trying to thank them in such a way to say, ‘It was well worth what you did, we just want to repay you in a certain way,’” he said.
The problem is not with giving disabled veterans an exemption, but with how it will be financed, said Judy Allen, director of legislative affairs for the Michigan Townships Association. Local governments lose the revenue from the exemption.
“This is being done at the state level, and this is impacting local units of government, and we have no say in what the reductions would be for the township budgets,” Allen said.
Her group advocates for a means test that would give the break to low-income property owners.
David Eling, director of the Muskegon County Department of Veteran Affairs, agrees.
“It’s not made for the person who has assets. It’s meant to help the injured veteran who can’t afford to go without this service,” Eling said. “A person with a million dollar home should not be receiving this exemption.”
Tyrone Chatman, executive director of the Michigan Veterans Foundation, supports the exemption, but said the state and local governments should discuss how to fund it.
“It doesn’t matter to me who comes up with the funds,” he said, “but if it puts a strain on the local unit of government, it seems to me that it’s on them to run it up the chain and say ‘hey, this is excellent, but who’s going to fund this thing?’ Then they should sit down and make a decision.”
Lucido said the state and local governments can work together to support disabled veterans.
“It’s just a small price to pay for what they do for us,” he said.
A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, is already through the Senate.