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Senate Passes Bill to Cap Property Taxes For Military Veterans

In this Oct. 3, 2018 photo, a woman arrives for an open house in Chula Vista,...

Photo by Gregory Bull / AP Photo

Above: In this Oct. 3, 2018 photo, a woman arrives for an open house in Chula Vista, Calif.

A Riverside County lawmaker's bill seeking to cap property taxes for many military veterans over 65 years old and exempt disabled vets from being taxed altogether was approved Thursday by the state Senate.

Sen. Jeff Stone's Senate Bill 364, the Veterans Tax Relief Bill, now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

"Veterans have sacrificed much for our country, and in return local, state and federal governments need to do everything in their power to help them succeed," Stone, R-La Quinta, said. "By expanding the current property tax exemption and current reach of the law, California is honoring the sacrifices of our veterans and providing them a way to stay in their homes."

Under the bill, which replicates Stone's SB 1104, a 2016 measure that died in committee, the annual inflation factor on assessed valuations of qualifying veterans' homes would be frozen. To receive the freeze, a veteran would need to be 65 or older, honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Services and earning less than $50,000 a year if single, or $100,000 annually if married.

Under Proposition 13, houses, condominiums and other properties can be re-assessed at a maximum rate of 2 percent annually, and the maximum yearly tax is 1 percent of base valuation.

The proposed freeze would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, after which qualifying residents would only pay property taxes at the rate in effect for their homes prior to the change in the law, which would apply exclusively to primary residences, not investment or vacation properties.

The bill also seeks to expand the state's disabled veterans exemption, enabling blind vets, or those who have lost limbs or suffered any similar incapacitating injury stemming from military service, to be free of paying any property taxes.

According to the California Board of Equalization, under existing law, disabled veterans can apply for an exemption on $150,000 of the assessed value of their principal residence. However, only vets earning less than $40,000 a year are eligible for that. Vets with annual salaries over that amount can only receive an exemption on the first $100,000 of their assessed value.

SB 364 would institute a blanket exemption, beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

The BOE estimated that the measure would potentially benefit 87,268 residents, including 48,829 already receiving the disabled vets' exemption.

Veteran-owned homes that qualify for the freeze number roughly 330,000, according to the agency.

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