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00000175-b316-d35a-a3f7-bbdeff690001Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.It's KUT's political podcast that lets you know what's happening under the dome and explains how it hits home.

Texans Could Vote to Help Cut Veterans' Property Taxes

Early voting starts Monday for the runoff election for Austin City Council Place Three.
Photo by KUT News
Voters could give property tax breaks to soldiers and their families on November 5th.

When Texans go to the polls beginning Monday, they’ll have the chance to vote on nine constitutional propositions. Two of them would cut property taxes for disabled veterans or their surviving spouse. 

Both propositions have their origins in an oversight and look to tweak current laws to give returning Texas veterans and their families property tax breaks.

Let’s start with Proposition 1. State Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) wrote the Senate version of the bill. A bill she began working on after meeting the widow of fallen soldier.

“And she looked at me and she said, ‘You know I lost my husband two years ago. And I have three small children. And I’d give anything for him to be 100 percent disabled.  But he died on the battlefield and I am barely making ends meet,'" Van de Putte says as she relayed the story of the soldier's wife.

Current state law gives a property tax exemption to veterans who are 100 percent disabled. But there is no exemption for the spouse of a soldier killed in battle.

So Senator Van de Putte, along with State Representative Chris Turner (D-Arlington), wrote a bill to fix that. Turner said military families already struggle to make ends meet on military pay.

Proposition 1 could provide some breathing room.

“The average property tax bill on a residence in Texas is a little over $3,000. So $3,000 a year is a significant amount of money to these families," Turner says.

Proposition 4 comes from an oversight discovered after a good deed was done for three disabled vets in Lubbock. West Texas Homebuilders built and donated three homes to the wounded warriors. While the homes were free, the soldiers still got property tax bills.

“I call it the no good deed goes unpunished reversal," State Representative Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) says. “You know sometimes we do something out of kindness and pure intent and wake up and find out it was really a burden.”

So Prop 4 would provide a partial exemption of property taxes for homes donated to disabled vets by non-profits.

“So if they’re 70 percent disabled, they’d have a 70 percent credit. If they’re 80 percent, they’d get an 80 percent," Representative Perry says.

Both amendments easily passed through the state legislature, and neither appears to have any organized opposition. While there doesn’t seem to be any roadblocks for either proposition, Van de Putte worries about the historically paltry voter turnout for statewide constitutional elections.

“Texans are patriotic. And they will go and hopefully vote for 1 and 4,” Van de Putte says. “But they’ve got to know about it.”

Starting this Monday Oct. 21, Texans can vote early on Propositions 1 and 4, as well as the other seven propositions. Election day is Nov. 5.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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