LAWTON, OK (TNN) - As of March 13, Comanche County alone has lost nearly 40 million dollars since 2006 due to sales tax exemptions. No one is saying the Veterans don’t deserve it, but that money lost has hurt the county significantly.
In Comanche County, there are close to 3,300 100 percent disabled veterans. If this bill passes, the sales tax exemption they currently have will transfer over, or be an option for their widow, something not currently possible.
Jodi Opunui, the veteran center claim and benefits manage said, “Technically that widow should be eligible for it but the way the law is written right now the veteran had to eligible for that benefit before he died in order for the widow to be eligible.”
When the original sales tax exemption bill passed in 2006, JP Richard, who now serves as the Chair on the County Excise board said that the legislation supported it but they didn’t require the tax commission to reimburse the county like they do for wind farms and manufacturing. Richard says it shouldn’t be on the veterans, or the county to deal with this economic burden.
“The people of Oklahoma made this thing happen, the people of Oklahoma should have to pay for it, and not just the residents of Comanche County,” said JP Richard.
Richard and Grant Edwards, the County Assessor both said that despite the disabled veterans not paying the sales tax, they still play extremely active roles in the community.
“A lot of them still have kids in school or grandkids. They live here, they go and use the county services,” said Richard.
“We might lose that tax money, but they are still helping our merchants and real estate,” said Edwards.
Opunui works with veterans making claims every day and realizes the struggles some of these widows have been facing, especially when they rely on the veteran to survive.
She said, "The widows, they don’t get a whole lot of money to live on so anytime they can get some tax incentives, or tax breaks to help them that’s always a good thing.”
7 News told you a month ago that a senate bill was proposed to get the state to pay for reimbursement back into the counties affected by the sales tax lost. That bill never got past it’s committee. House Bill 2297 which has the same goal is waiting to be heard on the house floor, and the deadline for that is Thursday.