Raleigh, N.C. — A proposal to give more property tax relief to disabled veterans and surviving spouses of fallen emergency responders is moving ahead – with some key changes meant to ease the concerns of cities and counties.
Under current law, 100 percent disabled veterans are exempt from local property tax for the first $45,000 of their property's value. The version of House Bill 2 that passed the House Finance Committee on Tuesday morning would raise that cap to the first $100,000 of value.
An earlier version of the bill did not cap the exempted value at all and left local governments responsible for absorbing the loss of revenue. But sponsor Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said officials have learned that there is a high concentration of such veterans in a "relatively small number of counties," including Cumberland, that would be disproportionately affected.
"We had to tail back our ambitions a little bit," Dollar told the panel. "The additional amount will be covered by the state in this case and not be covered by the municipalities."
The proposal would also include in the exemption the surviving unmarried spouses of law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians and firefighters killed in the line of duty. Dollar said about 370 emergency responders have died on the job across the state since the late 1970s.
"For hometown heroes who have sacrificed their very lives for the safety and protection of their communities," Dollar said, "the least we can do is to help their spouses, their orphans."
However, the local governments will have to cover the losses. The state will not reimburse the counties for the difference, Dollar said, noting, "It’s their employees."
Dollar took a little good-natured ribbing about the bill number – House Bill 2 – from Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg.
Dollar pointed out that the the Hurricane Matthew relief legislation passed last December was also numbered House Bill 2. "I don’t ascribe meaning to numbers," he said.
"Maybe we ought to consider – as they retire numbers in sports – maybe we should retire House Bill 2," Carney suggested with a laugh.
The bill goes next to House Appropriations Committee.