Kim Woodard Holmes is one of many disabled veterans struggling to pay the bills. The single mother of four retired from the Air Force in 2005 as a lieutenant colonel after a head-on car wreck left her permanently disabled. The 55-year-old veteran is now struggling to pay the bills due to rapidly rising property taxes, which have more than doubled in the past two years.
Holmes is one of 58,000 Texas veterans who the government classifies as severely disabled, meaning they are 80 percent or more physically handicapped. Her ailments make employment options limited, forcing her to choose between paying her taxes or feeding her family.
“I’m going through my savings,” said Holmes. “It’s at a point I have to sell because I can’t find a job.”
“We’ve got vets who are making a decision, ‘Should I buy groceries or pay my taxes? But there are only so many meals you can skip.” said P.J. Putnam, a Dallas attorney and supporter of a new bill that would lessen the economic burden on disabled veterans.
State Rep. Rick Miller, Naval Academy graduate and former pilot, has introduced legislation (HB3002) to tie property tax relief to the degree of severe disability. Current laws offer a complete exemption to veterans that are 100% disabled and a reduction to severely disabled veterans. However, the property tax reduction is not scaled based on degree of disability.
Several other states offer varying degrees of property tax relief to disabled military veterans, but Texas remains reluctant to follow suit. Opponents of the bill fear it will shift the local tax burden to other property owners.
To take effect, the proposal must be passed by the Texas Legislature and approved as an amendment to the state constitution by voters.