Raleigh, N.C. — As the House voted Tuesday to formally reject the Senate's budget proposal, advocates for senior citizens urged Senate leaders toward the House position on the restoration of the state tax deduction for medical expenses.
In the tax overhaul of 2013, state lawmakers voted to repeal the deduction, among many others. The result, however, was high tax bills for 2014 for senior citizens who could no longer deduct medical expenses from their taxable income. Those living in assisted housing were especially hard hit.
In response, House leaders reinstated the full deduction in their budget proposal, but Senate leaders only partially restored it in their plan. The Senate budget includes medical expenses as one of several allowable deductions under a total annual cap of $20,000.
AARP members and organizers delivered hundreds of signed letters Tuesday to the office of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, asking him to agree to adopt the House's uncapped restoration.
Retired educator Dwight Willis is a legislative activist for AARP. He said the repeal of the deduction created a serious financial crisis for many seniors, especially those on fixed incomes with little available cash savings.
"For the first time in most of their lives, they had to go the bank and borrow money to pay their North Carolina taxes. We don’t believe that the state legislature intended to do that to our senior citizens at this stage of their lives," Willis said.
He said the Senate's inclusion of the deduction under its $20,000 cap isn't sufficient.
"That includes all deductions," he pointed out. "If you’ve been to the hospital lately, that’s nothing when you’re talking about out-of-pocket costs. We just don’t think there should be a cap on that."
Willis said his group is also lobbying the Senate to pass House Bill 817, an adult guardianship bill that's already passed the House but is stalled in a Senate committee. They're also seeking the restoration of a $1 million cut to the Community Block Grant in the 2013 budget.
"There are 8,000 North Carolina seniors who are on waiting lists for services from that budget," he said. "A million dollars gone, that’s created a huge waiting list. That affects things even like Meals on Wheels for senior citizens. The House has put that million dollars back in the budget, and we’re asking the Senate to do the same."