The Frederick County Council unanimously passed a bill Tuesday evening to establish a property tax credit for disabled veterans.

The credit will apply to veterans across the county who were honorably discharged, have permanent disabilities and who make $100,000 or less per year in federal adjusted gross income. Council member Steve McKay (R) was the bill’s main sponsor. He was joined by council members Jessica Fitzwater (D), Kai Hagen (D) and Michael Blue (R) as co-sponsors.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Fitzwater said. “I know it will benefit some very treasured members of our community.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs uses a percentage scale to describe the severity of veterans’ disabilities, and it determines their benefits accordingly. For example, a veteran with a minor disability might earn a 10 percent disability rating, but a veteran whose disability meant they couldn’t care for themselves at all would earn a 100 percent rating.

To qualify for the council’s newly established tax credit, Frederick County veterans must have a disability rating of at least 50 percent on the VA’s scale, which is divided into intervals of ten.

But the legislation includes two separate tiers, McKay said. Veterans with a disability rating of 50, 60 or 70 percent will earn a 25 percent credit on their property taxes, while those with a rating of 80 or 90 percent will receive a 50 percent credit. Under state law, veterans with a 100 percent disability rating are already exempt from property taxes.

While most Maryland counties have instituted tax credits for retired veterans, McKay said Frederick would be among the first to establish one for veterans with disabilities: Washington County is the only other county he could find with a similar system.

“We can be leading the way,” McKay said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, McKay addressed questions about how much the credit would ultimately cost the county. He stood by previous statements that he wasn’t concerned about the price tag, though.

A fiscal note attached to the bill estimated the county would lose about $1.9 million in revenue by implementing it, but McKay said it could likely be a few hundred thousand dollars higher. That all depends on just how many county residents are eligible, he said, and how many apply to take advantage of it.

Plus, in order to implement and oversee the new program, the county will have to hire at least one new staffer, said Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) — adding to the bill’s overall cost.

Though all council members supported the bill, that point led to a back-and-forth. At last week’s meeting, when the council voted to approve County Executive Jan Gardner’s budget, McKay and Phil Dacey (R) each spoke at length about their concerns with the county’s growing spending.

Keegan-Ayer and member Jerry Donald (D) saw an “irony” in McKay’s lack of concern with the tax credit’s cost to the county, given his stance last week.

“One of the reasons that government grows is that we ask it to do more things,” Donald said. “If you want to do something like this, sometimes you have to provide for ways to do it.”

McKay “feels very strongly about this — so much that he doesn’t care what it costs,” Keegan-Ayer added.

“I just want to remind people that we always need to consider a perspective that someone else might be coming from as we advance a perspective of our own,” she said.

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(8) comments

mrnatural1

The affordability of taxes is a purely financial issue.

It would make more sense to have tax credits means tested (as these are) and available to everyone.

A cynical person might see this bill as political posturing. Of course we all respect and want to help disabled vets -- just as we to help ALL low income and/or disabled people.

MD1756

I served the country in a different way. Before working for the EPA, I worked at an Army ammunition plant manufacturing propellants, putting my life on the line more than some veterans (only a minority actually serve on the front lines). I also worked the rest of my working career at the EPA and I can just about guarantee saving more American lives (particularly hear in the U.S.) than most who served in the military, but neither affords me any discounts or benefits. The federal government should take care of the needs of it's veterans since the veterans were "harmed" while in its employment. State and local governments should not be playing favorites with tax policies, especially when it involves federal issues.

mrnatural1

Good point MD.

Any discounts and benefits should be means tested and available to everyone who meets the financial criteria.

At Metro, where I worked for over 27 years, it was considered so dangerous that we could not get disability insurance!

Metro employees are (or were) routinely killed on the job. Perhaps it's better now, but when I as an active employee the death rate (per X number of employees) was so high that working there was the most dangerous job in the nation. Perhaps there were other more dangerous workplaces that were not reported, but Metro as more dangerous than any of the professions there are stats for. In January of 2010, half of my crew at Shady Grove was killed (zero consequences for those responsible -- just another day at work.) Oh, and their wives could not sue because Metro has Worker's Comp (aka "diplomatic immunity"). "Sorry about your dead husband, buh-bye".

I won't compare working at Metro to being in the military or law enforcement but it is a public service, and it's definitely dangerous. No one I worked with expected any special treatment though. There are so many people who risk their lives and/or sacrifice for the good of others, including but not limited to: teachers; social workers; public defenders; volunteers; people in your previous professions and in other government agencies; and the millions of people who routinely do things for others without expecting any credit or payment. The list goes on.

It's not fair to select one or two groups for special treatment and exclude others. As you said, "State and local governments should not be playing favorites with tax policies...".

MD1756

A guy who I used to live next door to when I rented a house in Riverdale in the early 90s was one of those killed on the job working for Metro as a maintenance worker in the late 90s. I think metro eventually determined it was the train operator's fault. Employers need to take more responsibility and not leave it up to others to pay for their cheapness.

MD1756

State and local governments shouldn't be giving special treatment to someone because they are a disabled vet. The federal government should be stepping up to help those who were disabled while in public service to the country.

fnpreader123

Great news! I'm a little concerned that the permanent designation is going to count most of our local veterans out. As far as I can tell, it's pretty rare to get a permanent rating on anything under 100% total and permanent, unless you are over the age of 55 and have had the rating for over 20 years. Most conditions that vets get payments for are not rated as permanent for a very long time. I would be interested in a follow-up to this article to see how many vets qualify, and how many won't.

Plumbum

I’ve been a good citizen, I haven’t let any balloons off. How much tax credit will I get for being good?

phydeaux994

100% Just don’t pay your tax.....and don’t answer the knock on your door.

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