New Jerseyans have voted to extend a $250 property tax deduction for veterans to all veterans, regardless of whether they served during times of war.
Currently, only honorably discharged wartime veterans are eligible for the tax deduction. The ballot question, approved in Tuesday’s election, would expand the property tax break to an estimated 53,274 peacetime veterans.
The Associated Press called the referendum at about 10 p.m., with nearly 77% of the ballots counted. It was winning by a wide margin.
The deduction originally was created by state constitutional amendment and voters must approve any changes.
Lawmakers who proposed the ballot question argued anyone who serves in the military is doing so with the understanding they may be put in danger.
“We must recognize and respect the bravery in their decision, regardless of whether that recruit went on to fight in a war or if they served during a time of peace,” they said.
The expanded deduction is estimated to cost the state $13.5 million a year, decreasing each year because of the state’s falling number of peacetime veterans, according to the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.
The ballot question similarly expands eligibility for the 100 percent property tax exemption for “totally disabled veterans” to those who became while serving in the military during peacetime. The OLS estimated there are 6,781 totally disabled veterans in New Jersey who did not serve during a time of war.
The lost property tax revenue will be absorbed by a municipality and its property taxpayers, OLS said.
Surviving spouses will continue to the receive tax breaks after the veterans’ death.
Last November, voters also supported a measure to ensure veterans living in continuing care retirement communities could receive the $250 property tax break. They previously were not eligible because of the way they are required to file their taxes.
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