Tax bill for seniors passes committee |

Tax bill for seniors passes committee

Just as tax day ended, two bills designed to provide senior citizens and veterans with tax relief had bipartisan support Monday, passing the California State Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

“It is great to see legislators from both sides of the aisle coming behind these measures,” said Sen. Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, the author of SB 1394 and SB 1362. “I believe these bills are a win for everyone.”

The first bill would change the Property Tax Postponement Program to allow more elderly people who own their own home to avoid paying property taxes.

The program gives low-income seniors and disabled people what is essentially a loan that lets them defer payment of their property taxes until they relocate or die.

“I want to ensure that elderly people are not forced to move from the home they have lived in for years simply because they cannot afford property taxes,” Leslie said.

Currently, people more than 62 years old with an income less than $24,000 a year are eligible for the program. That level has not changed since 1984 while the cost of living in the state has increased by more than 60 percent, said Leslie, who is proposing the qualifying income level increase to $39,000 a year.

“This would encompass more seniors and give them the opportunity to postpone their taxes if they want to,” said Terri Boldt, who works with seniors for El Dorado County. “It is better than having them kicked out of their homes.”

“Anything is better than a kick in the head,” said Patty Olsen, of South Lake Tahoe. “It probably needs to be raised because anything would be better than $24,000.”

Other South Shore seniors are against the proposal despite the possibility of lower taxes.

“I don’t like it at all,” said Vivian Bell, who owns a home in South Lake Tahoe. “I don’t approve of it because the kids will just get stuck with (the cost).”

The money loaned by the state is due when the person in the program dies or sells the home. Boldt, however, said it is a deal for people who need it.

“It is for people who are struggling or who have made bad choices,” she said.

The appropriations committee will now choose whether or not to approve the bill, but Leslie, who is the committee’s vice chairman, said he is confident it will pass.

Gary Moore, who runs the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center, said making a decision about the issue is difficult, but that some people need help paying taxes.

“I have individuals in my facility who are living on $650 a month and that is tough,” he said.

The second bill, SB 1362, will make it easier for disabled veterans to apply for better benefits and receive property tax exemptions.

Current law makes it difficult for veterans to get tax relief, according to Brain Salmon, the exemption manager for San Diego County. He has been joined in support of the bill by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the State Board of Equalization.

“Policy like this is not just compassionate, it makes good sense as well,” Leslie said.

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