On January 13, 2020, the New Jersey State Legislature passed a resolution placing a constitutional amendment related to veterans’ tax payments on the ballot for November 3, 2020. Both chambers of the New Jersey State Legislature passed ACR 253 in unanimous votes, excluding abstaining and absent members.
The ballot measure would expand the state’s $250 property tax deduction for wartime veterans to include peacetime veterans as well. It would also expand the 100 percent property tax exemption for disabled wartime veterans with total and permanent service-related disabilities to disabled peacetime veterans.
The Office of Legislative Services (OLS) estimated that there were 53,274 property-owning peacetime veterans and 440 peacetime veterans living in continuing care retirement communities. According to OLS, an increase in the number of veterans’ deductions for peacetime veterans would cost the state about $13.6 million for tax year 2020. OLS estimated that 4,340 disabled peacetime veterans paid property taxes in 2018. Therefore, the constitutional amendment would have provided $38 million in tax exemptions in 2018.
The ballot measure follows a vote on veterans’ tax payments that was on the ballot in November 2019. On the ballot as Question 1, the constitutional amendment extended the $250 property tax deduction that veterans receive to continuing care retirement centers on behalf of the veterans living there. The ballot measure required the continuing care retirement center to provide the $250 to an eligible veteran, or an eligible surviving spouse of a veteran or soldier, as a payment or credit.
Veterans’ property tax deductions and exemptions were first added to the New Jersey Constitution in 1947. Between 1947 and 2019, voters decided and approved seven ballot measures to amend the constitutional provision governing veterans’ property tax deductions and exemptions.
Since 1995, 32 constitutional amendments have been on the New Jersey ballot. Voters approved 29 (90.6 percent) of them. The veterans’ property tax amendment is the second constitutional amendment referred to the New Jersey ballot for the 2020 general election. The other ballot measure was designed to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons age 21 and older and legalize the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana.
The New Jersey State Legislature has until August 25, 2020 (70 days before the general election) to refer additional measures to the ballot. A 60 percent vote is required in each chamber to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for November. A simple majority vote, along with the governor’s signature, is needed to refer a bond measure or other statute to the ballot in New Jersey.
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