OCEAN TOWNSHIP – This Monday, Acting Governor Sheila Oliver signed legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey that would expand the veterans’ property tax exemption program to include veterans living in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). Tinton Falls Borough President and retired Air Force veteran Gary Baldwin lauded the move, calling it a major step forward for veterans Across New Jersey.
“This tax relief program is one of the many ways in which we show our appreciation for the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for our nation,” said Gopal (D-Long Branch), who chairs the Senate Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our soldiers fight for fairness, equality, and justice. It’s only right that we treat them with those same ideals when they return home.”
The bill (S-1331) would extend the annual $250 deduction on property taxes to any qualified veterans who reside in a CCRC. Currently, veterans must own their own home to be eligible for the program, meaning that veterans can actually face higher tax rates after moving into a retirement community such as Seabrook Village in Tinton Falls. A companion resolution, SCR-110, must be approved by voters in November to formally enshrine the expanded tax relief within New Jersey’s constitution.
Tinton Falls Council President Gary Baldwin, a retired Air Force officer, has been working to expand this property tax deduction for 18 years. Baldwin was surprised to learn that veterans lose this tax deduction when he sold his home and moved to the Seabrook Retirement Community in Tinton Falls, and decided to fight to expand it to the nearly 3,000 veterans and their spouses across New Jersey who are currently excluded.
“Veterans have been living with this discriminatory process for years, and this legislation finally brings fairness to an unfair situation,” said Baldwin. “Every resident of a retirement community like Seabrook already pays taxes on the units they live in – there’s no reason why they shouldn’t receive this cost-saving deduction as well.”
Gopal, Houghtaling, and Downey have made serving veterans a top priority. Another bill bill signed into law Monday sponsored by the three legislators (A-4095) expands access to a peddler’s license for New Jersey veterans, creating new career opportunities for former service members as they transition to civilian life.
Current law only grants veterans the right to a peddler’s license if they received an honorable discharge from active military service. Under the new law, this right would be extended to any New Jersey veteran discharged under honorable conditions, whether or not they served on active duty. The holder of a peddler’s license is permitted to sell carried goods or merchandise streetside or directly to individual houses as a canvasser, solicitor, or traveling vendor.
The legislators also recently hosted “The Coming Home Project” at Monmouth University’s campus in West Long Branch, a veterans claims clinic intended to help connect local veterans with services and state benefits to lower their costs and increase the support they receive.