Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, found little resistance to his resolution seeking an amendment to the Utah Constitution that would allow Utah National Guard and military reservists and their spouses to not have to pay property tax while on some active-duty missions.
Sandstrom pushed House Joint Resolution 12 as a way for Utah to more sincerely show its appreciation for the state’s military personnel who put themselves in harm's way while on combat duty or in support of combat operations. “This is an opportunity for us as a state to officially say 'thank you' to National Guard members and reservists who put their lives on the line every year,” Sandstrom said.
Since such a tax break would require an amendment to the state Constitution, Sandstrom is proposing the resolution that would allow the issue to be put to Utah voters in 2013. The proposal is part of a bipartisan move by Sandstrom and Sen. Luz Robles, D-Salt Lake City. Robles’ Senate Bill 116 proposes the actual tax relief for service members who are called to active federal duty outside of the state. The relief would only affect reservists and National Guard members for certain calls to duty and would not offer the relief while doing certain regular-training excursions that are usually held outside of the state.
“If you are deployed overseas or outside of the state, you will be given a property-tax reprieve during the time of your service and that requires a vote of the people,” Sandstrom said. According to the fiscal note on Robles’ legislation, analysts predict that a tax shift would eventually affect other taxpayers over a period of five years to equal a $.16 tax increase on average property taxpayers per a $250,000 home or $1.19 per a $1 million business.
Major Aaron Drake of the State Judge Advocate General’s testified on behalf of the resolution and argued that for deployed servicemen and women, sometimes the financial uncertainty that comes from deployment can be the greatest challenge for military reservists. “I have been deployed myself in 2008 to Iraq and I can easily say that was the single hardest thing I’ve had to do in my military career,” Drake said, adding. “Not the deployment itself ,but saying goodbye to my wife in the airport terminal and having to take that last step where we can’t see each other anymore and knowing my destination is Baghdad,” Drake said. He argued that reservist families often struggle with lengthy deployments that can disrupt the financial stability of their families while they’re away.
The House Tax and Revenue Committee passed the resolution favorably out of committee with a unanimous vote.
For regular updates from the 2012 Legislature, follow @EricSPeterson on Twitter