Give surviving spouses of volunteer firefighters, emergency medical responders, technicians and paramedics who died while on duty a full property tax exemption on their home.
Keep existing ad valorem property tax exemptions in place.
The state constitution allows homeowners an exemption from most parish property taxes up to $75,000 of the value of the homestead if they reside in the home. A constitutional amendment approved last year says that surviving spouses of National Guard members, state police, law enforcement or fire protection officers who died in the line of duty are exempt from paying any property tax on their primary home.
The proposed amendment aims to extend the current exemption for other first responders. The extension would include the surviving spouses of volunteer firefighters, emergency medical responders, technicians or paramedics who died as a result of performing their duties. It would also apply to law enforcement officers who would have qualified but died before completing their first year of service.
This amendment deservedly adds other first responders to last year’s amendment. While fire protection officers are already protected, the current law does not include some firefighters who also put their lives on the line for public safety. Also not included previously were emergency medical responders, technicians and paramedics. This amendment also would fix a technical oversight in last year’s amendment by extending the exemption for law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty before completing their first year of service. The extension brings about fair coverage for all first responders and would clean up the language in last year’s amendment.
While first responders perform very honorable jobs, this expansion – coming less than a year after a similar exemption was created – begs the question of when does the state draw the line for property tax exemptions. Although this expansion of the homestead exemption is a relatively minor loss of revenue from the local government standpoint, the combination of this and other special homestead exemptions has an impact on the local tax base. While no single exemption is a significant problem, the trend of creating more of these exceptions adds up to a negative impact, shifts the tax burden to fewer payers and should be stopped.
Legal Citation: Act 427 (House Bill 145 by Rep. Garofalo) of the 2017 Regular Session amending Article VII, Section 21(M)(1).