An effort to retain Virginia veterans by expanding tax breaks died in the Senate
A Senate committee defeated a push to allow younger veterans to receive a tax break, a move that disappointed those hoping to entice retired service members to stay in Virginia.
“I am really disheartened,” said Denice Williams, chair of the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations. “I want to find out what the concerns were and then bring this back next year because it’s important.”
The General Assembly took action last year to make the state more financially appealing to veterans, passing a law that allows those 55 or older to deduct from their taxable income tens of thousands of dollars in military retirement pay. But some legislators argue this isn’t enough to keep veterans from leaving because many retire at a younger age.
A bill that would have lifted the age restriction unanimously passed the House of Delegates. But Democrats on a Senate committee shot it down with little discussion, though the price tag was a likely factor.
Gretchen Heal, vice president of government affairs for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, said the legislation’s defeat is a loss for local business.
Most veterans start a second career after retiring from the military and they’re desirable members of the work force, she explained.
“We want veterans to stay here and bring the wealth of knowledge from their military careers into the private sector,” Heal said. “They just bring a range of skills and they’re ready to get to work.”
The bill that passed last year allows veterans 55 and over to deduct up to $20,000 from their taxable income this year, $30,000 in 2024 and $40,000 in 2025 and beyond. The bill’s fiscal impact statement estimated the tax break would cost the state $287 million the first year it was in effect.
Eliminating the age requirement would have cost the state an additional estimated $37.8 million from the general fund, according to a fiscal impact statement for this year’s proposal.
Roughly 707,000 veterans live in the state, according to 2020 data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Several delegates from Hampton Roads co-sponsored this year’s bill, including Democrats Nadarius Clark and Jackie Glass and Republicans Glenn Davis, Tim Anderson, Karen Greenhalgh, A.C. Cordoza and Anne Ferrell Tata.
Davis slammed Senate Democrats for rejecting the bill.
“They talk about caring about our veterans and wanting to help them and and then when it comes time to put up or shut up, they shut up,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Senate Democratic Caucus did not respond to a request for comment.
In a 11-5 vote on party lines, the Senate Committee Finance and Appropriations opted to pass the bill by indefinitely earlier this month.
Two Democrats from Hampton Roads — Sens. Louise Lucas and Mamie Locke — sit on the committee. Neither responded to multiple requests for comment.
Greenhalgh, a chief co-sponsor, said she will work to bring the legislation back next year.
“They are entitled to all the retirement they earned to start a new career, open a new business and stay and work in Virginia,” she wrote to The Pilot.
Glass, a Navy veteran from Norfolk, said she believes there is a “disconnect” between how the House and Senate view the bill.
Virginia is “hemorrhaging” retired veterans to other states, like North Carolina, that offer more incentives, she said. When they leave, they take their job skills and their money elsewhere.
“Many people see it as a tax break for veterans but really it is a retention tool,” said Glass. “It’s about understanding how we keep veterans here.”
Katie King, firstname.lastname@example.org