For almost 100 years, Oregon has honored its wounded warriors — our disabled veterans — with a property tax exemption. At one time, research shows, this exemption was more than 100 percent of the value of a median single family dwelling in Oregon. This is fitting, as our wounded warriors have given a portion of their body; a part of their being in the service of our country.
But, this exemption has been reduced to less than 10 percent of the value of a median priced single family home. This is an unfortunate result of not reviewing old laws and updating them to meet current needs.
The original Oregon statute that authorizes this property tax exemption references Civil War disabled veterans and their surviving spouses. This demonstrates our state’s long -tanding commitment to our disabled veterans. This law has been modified only a few times since 1953.
When real estate values started escalating in the late 1970s, the disabled veterans property tax exemption started to dwindle. The exemption amounts remained the same while the assessed valuation of properties grew. The amount exempted became less and less. The Oregon statute controlling the amount of disabled veteran property tax exemption was not updated during the time that property values soared in the 1980s and 1990s.
Over the past several years, there have been attempts to correct this situation. But it appears that politicians decided not to maintain a reasonable exemption for our wounded warriors.
The 2005 legislature did make some amends: a 3 percent annual increase was added to the disabled veterans property tax exemption. A disabled veteran inferred in a 2015 testimony that the 3 percent increase would not even buy a dinner for two. In other words, this is not enough.
Do we still care about our disabled veterans? They made a sacrifice for all of us. We must make sure they are appropriately honored.
Because political sentiment identifies that a 100 percent exemption would be too costly, Senate Bill 694 is a compromise. The end result of passing this bill is that most disabled veterans qualifying for this exemption would receive a property tax exemption closer to 25 percent of the value of a median priced home in Oregon.
This bill also addresses the severely disabled veteran. It creates a new category that would allow an even greater property tax exemption if certain requirements are met. Senate Bill 694 gives the local county commission the option to control the levels of this exemption.
It will not be 100 percent. But 25 percent is better than 10 percent. This is a compromise that should be nonpartisan.
Senate Bill 694 is doing something. Previous legislative sessions have come and gone and the politicians did nothing. Something is better than nothing.
Let Oregon once again stand for our wounded warriors. Let us increase the disabled veteran property tax exemption this year. Let us work with our state legislators to pass Senate Bill 694.
A retired businessman, Steve Bates is a 40 year resident of Boring. He served as the Chair of the Boring Community Planning Organization and is currently Chair of the Committee on Memorials and Remembrance, an organization that addresses various issues for veterans.