Tribute paid to five servicemen who made ‘ultimate sacrifice’ in TN Memorial Day ceremony

News release from state Department of Veterans Affairs

NASHVILLE — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Tennessee Military Department Adjutant General, Major General Terry “Max” Haston paid tribute to five service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the state’s Memorial Day service today.

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House OKs Senate amendments, sends gas tax bill to governor

The House went along Monday night with Senate amendments to Gov. Bill Haslam’s tax package, including increases in the state levies on gasoline and diesel fuel, giving the measure final approval and sending it to the governor for his signature.

The vote was 67-21. The House had approved the overall bill last earlier on a 60-37 vote.

The key amendment added by the Senate Thursday was to increase state-funded property tax relief for disabled veterans to cover the first $175,000 value of their home. Currently, only the first $100,000 is covered.

The House – especially those who had opposed the overall Haslam bill, known as the IMPROVE Act — had pushed to have the veterans tax relief included in a separate bill. But even some who voted against the overall bill went along with the amendments, even though protesting the procedure.

Rep. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, acting as sponsor of Haslam’s bill, said separate legislation dealing with only the veterans bill is dead in the Senate, though it has passed the House. And he said the Senate version of veterans tax relief bill raised the home value to just $135,000, not the $175,000 that is in the Senate amendment to the IMPROVE Act.

Further, from the Times-Free Press:

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Soccer, veterans, taxes get tangled in House GOP floor fights

Legislation dealing with a proposed soccer stadium in Nashville and a property tax break for disabled veterans got tangled up with Gov. Bill Haslam’s fuel tax package in contentious quarreling among  House Republicans Thursday.

The results were inconclusive: The soccer bill passed, as expected, and House Majority Leader Glen Casada gave up on his veterans tax maneuver, which began with him declaring:

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the House to lead.”

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Veterans Caucus opposes tying tax break to gas tax

News release from Rep. Micah Van Huss

(NASHVILLE) — Representative Micah Van Huss (R – Gray) brought a statement before the Legislative Veterans Caucus on Wednesday.  The statement condemns the actions that amended the Governor’s Gas Tax bill (The IMPROVE Act) to include property tax relief for Veterans.

The statement, which passed the bi-partisan caucus unanimously, calls upon the Legislature to remove the amendment from the IMPROVE Act.  It also requests that 3 bills providing specifically for veterans property tax relief be given a fair vote.

“I am honored to lead this bi-partisan effort to ensure that our Veterans are not used as political pawns,” Van Huss said.

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Veterans renew lobbying to restore cuts in state tax relief program

A bill has already been filed for the 2017 legislative session that would restore a cut in the state-funded subsidy of local property taxes paid by military veterans and The Tennessean has a report on veterans who will be lobbying for passage of the measure in a year with huge budget surpluses.

The bill (HB5) by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, himself a veteran, declares that veterans can get property tax relief on the first $175,000 in value of their homes. After the cut – pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration and the state comptroller’s office because of rapid growth in the cost of the program – the subsidy applies to only the first $100,000 in value.

It’s been a hotly-debated topic for three years. Legislators last year added close to $1 million in funding for the overall program beyond what was allocated in Haslam’s budget (low income elderly and disabled persons are also eligible for a state subsidy), but didn’t change the value cap for veterans.

As many as 16,700 disabled veterans and their surviving spouses received $12.1 million in benefits via the tax relief program during the 2015-16 tax year, which is the most recent data available. The year before, about 15,900 disabled veterans and their surviving spouses received $8.5 million in benefits.

By comparison, 133,400 low-income elderly and disabled residents received about $20 million in benefits in the 2015-16 tax year.

… The effort to undo the changes to the tax relief program is the No. 1 priority, says Barry Rice, president of the Tennessee State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

“On a scale of one to 10, it’s about an 11 or 12,” he said.

Despite lawmakers’ promises of additional change to the program, Land remains skeptical.

Land says the state’s public officials are playing political football with the men and women who have risked their lives by serving their country. He points to the amount of federal money that the state’s veterans bring to Tennessee to underline the sheer economic value they bring to the state.

Land also said he finds it disheartening to see veterans’ property tax relief being scrutinized when the state has a surplus and teachers and public employees have been receiving raises.

“Give me a break,” he says. “This is just shoving stuff down our throats.”

Roe to chair House Veterans Affairs Committee

Rep. Phil Roe, a Johnson City Republican representing Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District, has been named the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He will replace Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who is retiring.

The following is from Roe’s press release on the appointment:

“I am extremely honored and humbled to be given this opportunity. During my time in Congress, veterans’ issues have been a top priority for me, and this is not a responsibility I will take lightly. With scandal after scandal, it has become clear there’s no federal agency more in need of reform than the VA.

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