|San Jacinto News Times - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Early voting begins Oct. 21 in constitutional amendment election
COLDSPRING – Early voting starts Monday, Oct. 21 in the Nov. 5 Constitutional Amendment Election and continues through Nov. 1. According to San Jacinto County Elections Administrator Sherryl Evans, voters are now required to present an approved form of photo identification in order to vote in all Texas Elections. Acceptable forms of photo ID include: • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS • Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS • United States military identification card containing the person's photograph • United States citizenship certificate containing the person's photograph • United States passport If the name on your voter registration record and the name on your photo ID are not identical, you are encouraged to get a "voter's similar name correction request form," and update your current voter registration record. Those forms may be obtained at the San Jacinto County Elections office located at 51 E. Pine Avenue, Coldspring. In San Jacinto County, voters will be asked to vote "for" or "against" nine propositions. Following is a list of the propositions, an explanation of each and arguments for and against each prepared by the Texas League of Women Voters: PROPOSITION 1: Official Ballot Language: The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of all or part of the market value of the residence homestead of the surviving spouse of a member of the armed services of the United States who is killed in action. Explanation The proposed amendment would allow the surviving spouse of a member of the U.S. armed services who was killed in action to be exempt from paying local property taxes based on all or part of the total appraised value of the homestead. This proposed amendment follows prior amendments that have passed, granting property tax exemptions to veterans who are 100 percent disabled and their surviving spouses. Under Proposition 1 and its enabling bill SB 163, a surviving surviving spouse is eligible if he or she has not remarried since the death of the spouse who served in the armed forces and if the qualifying homestead was the residence of the spouse at the time of death. Upon remarriage, the surviving spouse would lose the property tax exemption. The surviving spouse would be able to transfer the exemption to a new homestead, but it would be limited to the dollar amount of the prior homestead exemption. Arguments For • The proposed amendment would allow local governments in Texas to assist surviving spouses of U.S. armed services members who have been killed in action by providing valuable relief during such a difficult time. Surviving spouses who qualify would be able to save money on property taxes and could use this money elsewhere. • Surviving spouses would be able to transfer the exemption to a new residence if the surviving spouse chose to move within the state. Arguments Against • School districts would receive less revenue from property taxes so the state would have to cover the reduction by pulling from state general lose revenue, especially in cities and towns where military families largely populate the area. This would result in a projected yearly loss of up to $84,000 from counties, $93,000 from cities, and $45,000 from school districts by 2018 (SB 163 Fiscal Note). An increase in the number of people who receive property tax exemptions might require local governments to increase taxes for other taxpayers. PROPOSITION 2: Official Ballot Language: The constitutional amendment eliminating an obsolete requirement for a State Medical Education Board and a State Medical Education Fund, neither of which is operational. Explanation In 1952, voters amended the constitution to direct the Texas Legislature to create the State Medical Education Board (SMEB) and a scholarship revenue, creating a cost to the state. • Local governments would cal students who agreed to practice in rural areas of Texas. In 1973, the Legislature created the SMEB. In 1987, the Legislative Budget Board reported that only 11 percent of loan recipients since 1973 were practicing in rural Texas counties, and only 14 percent of those were in medically underserved areas. No new loans have been issued since January 1988. In 1989, after a recommendation by the Sunset Advisory Commission, the Legislature attached the SMEB to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). All existing loans have been serviced or turned over to the attorney general for default collection. Loan repayment programs are now used instead of direct loans to medical students to attract physicians to practice in rural Texas. The proposed constitutional amendment, and its enabling bill HB 1061, would remove references to these defunct entities in the constitution and state law. Arguments For • Since the SMEB and its education fund are no longer operational, references to them should be removed from the state's unwieldy constitution. Arguments Against • The SMEB and its education fund are obsolete and no loans have been issued since 1988, so a constitutional amendment to remove references to them is unnecessary. PROPOSITION 3: Official Ballot Language: The constitutional amendment to authorize a political subdivision of this state to extend the number of days that aircraft parts that are exempt from ad valorem taxation due to their location in this state for a temporary period may be located in this state for purposes of qualifying for the tax exemption. Explanation Currently, in order to promote economic development in the state, the Texas Constitution allows local taxing authorities to exempt from ad valorem taxation property that is in Texas temporarily. This tax exemption is commonly referred to as a "freeport exemption." Eligible property includes goods, wares, merchandise, other tangible property, and ores, other than oil, natural gas, and other petroleum products. To be eligible for the exemption, the property must be acquired in or imported into Texas for export; detained for assembly, storage, manufacturing, processing, or fabrication; and shipped out of Texas no later than 175 days after acquisition or importation. Eligible property currently includes aircraft and aircraft parts used for maintenance or repairs by certified air carriers. The proposed amendment and its enabling bill HB 3121 authorize the governing body of a political subdivision that already grants a freeport exemption to extend, up to 730 days (two years) after acquisition or importation, the date when aircraft parts with an exemption have to be transported outside of the state. The extension would apply only to the political subdivision that grants it. If passed, the amendment would take effect January 1, 2014, and apply only to a tax year that begins on or after that date. Arguments For • The proposed extension of the freeport exemption would provide an economic development tool designed to make Texas competitive in the aerospace industry that contributes billions to the state's economy. Texas is one of only a few states with a tax on inventory. Since aerospace suppliers often require inventory to be onsite for much longer than 175 days, at least one aerospace company has moved its storage or operations to another state because of the inventory tax. • Granting an extension would be totally at the option of each local government already granting an exemption. • Loss of tax revenue to a school district that grants a freeport exemption may be offset by additional state aid, since the amount of the exemption is subtracted from the market value of inventory or property to determine the taxable value for the taxing authority. Any extra cost to the state could be offset by additional revenues from increased economic development and jobs. Arguments Against • Singling out one group for special tax exemption status raises issues of uniformity in taxation. If the extension is authorized for aircraft parts, similar industries that make specialized parts and have a high portion of idle inventory may seek similar extensions. • Granting an extension reduces tax revenues for local governments. • An increase in exemptions by school districts could result in higher costs to the state. PROPOSITION 4: Official Ballot Language: The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization. Explanation Currently, the Texas Constitution provides that a 100 percent or totally disabled veteran, or the veteran's surviving spouse, is entitled to an exemption from ad valorem taxation of the market value of the disabled veteran's resident homestead, subject to certain restrictions. This proposed amendment, and its enabling legislation HB 97, would provide a similar exemption to a partially disabled veteran or surviving spouse, if the homestead has been donated by a charitable organization at no cost to the veteran. The amount of the exemption would be a percentage of the market value of the residence homestead that is equal to the percentage of disability of the veteran. Proposition 4 would allow the legislature to provide additional eligibility requirements for the exemption, and would not affect whether a qualified disabled veteran was en titled to another exemption for veterans for which he or she may qualify. It also allows partially disabled veterans to be added to the list of individuals authorized to pay property taxes in installments as provided by current law. Arguments For • Texas charitable organizations have given homes to disabled veterans, but in some cases the veteran is unable to pay the property taxes, resulting in an unintended consequence of foreclosure. These veterans have sacrificed for our country and are deserving of help. The cost of the exemption is small because only a dozen or so homes per year are donated cost-free to disabled veterans. • Partially disabled veterans who receive these homes are not likely to return to full employment and need help with their taxes. Arguments Against • Singling out one group for special tax exemption stus, even though deserving, raises issues of uniformity in taxation and could open the door to continued erosion of the tax base. • If the purpose of the bill is to help partially disabled veterans keep their homes while they are unable to pay property taxes, the exemption should not be permanent. It should expire when the veteran can afford to pay property taxes. PROPOSITION 5: Official Ballot Language: The constitutional amendment to authorize the making of a reverse mortgage loan for the purchase of homestead property and to amend lender disclosures and other requirements in connection with a reverse mortgage loan. Explanation A "reverse mortgage for purchase" allows a senior aged 62 or older to purchase a new principal residence and obtain a reverse mortgage within a single transaction. Texas is the second largest market in the country for reverse mortgages, but the only state that does not offer the "reverse mortgage for purchase" because it is not authorized in the state constitution. A reverse mortgage is a form of home equity loan that does not require a monthly payment. During the course of the loan, the debt increases with the addition of various costs such as interest, mortgage insurance premiums, and servicing fees, while the homeowner's equity decreases. Repayment of the loan is deferred until the borrower dies, sells, or moves out of the residence. While reverse mortgages are a small market nationally, approximately 70,000 originated per year, it could grow dramatically in the decades ahead spurred by an aging baby boomer population. Proposition 5 would enable Texas seniors to use "reverse mortgages for purchase" to acquire a new residence. It would also require reverse mortgage lenders to expand currently required counseling to borrowers to include disclosure of the specific behaviors that can lead to foreclosure on a property. Arguments For • This proposition saves costs for seniors by allowing a reverse mortgage loan to be set up as part of a purchase rather than after a purchase to eliminate duplicative processes. • Using a "reverse mortgage for purchase," the homeowner can occupy a new residence without making a single mortgage payment. This helps seniors relocate to other geographical areas or downsize to homes that better meet their needs. • Reverse mortgage loans are typically easier to qualify for than traditional loans, which have income and credit score requirements to support the borrower's ability to meet repayment commitments. Arguments Against • All reverse mortgages are complex financial products. Surveys have found that consumers struggle to understand and make good decisions even after required counseling. • Homeowners can lose a lifetime of home equity as a result of fraud, scams, misleading advertising, aggressive sales tactics and discriminatory practices sometimes associated with reverse mortgages. This risk increases significantly when state regulation and enforcement are weak. • As baby boomers consider the reverse mortgage market, their choices may put them at considerable risk at a time in their lives when making a financial recovery is unlikely.