While many races from the Nov. 3 elections remained too close to call hours after the polls closed, voters in three states moved decisively to approve measures aimed at offering support and appreciation -- in the form of tax breaks -- to veterans.
Amendment 6, which would extend a property tax discount for combat-disabled veterans to their surviving spouses in the event of their death, received resounding support from voters.
With 100% of the vote counted, The Associated Press reported that 89.7% of voters supported the measure, making it the most popular of the six referendum issues Florida considered this election cycle.
The homestead property tax discount applies only to veterans over age 65 with permanent combat-related disabilities. The measure would continue that discount for the veteran's surviving spouse in perpetuity, unless the widowed spouse remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property.
On Oct. 16, the Herald-Tribune newspaper published a compilation of seven Florida newspapers' editorial boards weighing in on the ballot question. All seven concluded that the measure should pass.
"Veterans aren't the only ones sacrificing their lives for the country," the board of Florida Today wrote in an editorial. "That sacrifice is shared by their spouses and family, and they too deserve a property tax break."
With well over the 60% of the vote required for passage, the measure will take effect Jan. 1, 2021.
Public Question 2 would make veterans who served in peacetime eligible for a $250 property tax deduction currently available only to combat veterans.
This measure also passed easily with 76.3% of the counted vote as of Nov. 4, making it the most-supported of the three referendum issues New Jersey voters took up. The property tax deduction is also available to the surviving spouses of deceased wartime veterans, and the measure would make spouses of peacetime veterans eligible for it as well.
In addition to the deduction, New Jersey offers a 100% property tax exemption for disabled wartime veterans or their surviving spouses. Voters moved to extend that as well to disabled peacetime veterans. For both policies, an honorable military discharge is a prerequisite for eligibility.
Opposition to the measure focused on the cost to the state in the form of lost revenue. According to information compiled by Ballotpedia, it's estimated to benefit an additional 4,000 New Jersey veterans. That will cost an estimated $38 million in lost revenue.
Supporters of the measure called it a matter of simple fairness to veterans, who volunteer to serve regardless of whether they see wartime or combat. With the approval of the referendum, the measure will take effect Jan. 1.
Ballot Question 2 would create a vehicle tax exemption for disabled veterans -- a measure designed to ease the cost burden for vets whose disabilities require them to purchase specially modified vehicles. The tax break would apply to one vehicle or pickup truck for any veteran who has a 100% service-connected, permanent disability documented by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans would not have to prove, however, that their disability necessitates vehicle modifications.
This measure also passed with overwhelming support: 85.9% of voters approved it, with 99% reporting. It was the most popular of two referendum issues Virginia voters considered this cycle.
As with the New Jersey ballot question, any opposition to the Virginia tax exemption focused on cost.
Virginia Association of Counties noted that the measure followed a previous series of tax exemptions for disabled veterans and spouses of the fallen. All those breaks, the organization said, cost localities roughly $53 million in 2018 -- lost revenue that was not offset by the state.
With massive support from voters, however, the measure is now set to become policy Jan. 1.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.