Weeks after Vassar native and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills lost portions of both legs and both arms when an improvised explosive device blew up beneath him in Afghanistan, a veterans’ organization raised almost $35,000 for Mills — only to discover it had to pay state sales tax on the proceeds.
But a bill introduced by state Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville, passed both the House and Senate on Tuesday, and would create a sales tax exemption to veterans’ organizations hosting fundraising activities for an active-duty service member, or veteran.
Mills was wounded in 2012 when on patrol in Afghanistan, and several weeks later, the American Legion Alvin F. Miller Post 400 near Richville hosted a May 27, 2012 fundraiser collecting almost $35,000.
“We’re talking about a true American hero,” Green, the bill’s lead sponsor, stated about Mills in a Thursday press release.
“Sgt. Mills and his family have given more than they were ever asked for our country and allowing them to keep money that their community raised for them is the right thing to do.”
The legislation proposes a tax exemption of up to $25,000 in sales of personal property for an individual fundraiser by a veterans’ organization benefiting an active-duty service member, or veteran.
The legislation awaits Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.
Mills was injured in the explosion in April of 2012 while on patrol. During the fundraiser for him the next month, volunteers sold items including products from Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, a golf outing, cigars and a luggage set, said Nick Buggia, Green’s legislative director.
Before introduction of Senate Bill 106, no sales tax exemption existed for veterans’ organizations selling personal property for fundraising purposes, according to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the bill.
“When a veterans service organization holds an event to benefit a current or past service member, the money raised should go directly to the cause,” Green stated in the press release.
The Senate Fiscal Agency analysis contends the bill would reduce State General Fund and state School Aid Fund revenue “by an unknown and unlikely negligible amount.”
An event that reached the $25,000 limit imposed by the bill would reduce total sales tax revenue by $1,500, which would lower School Aid Fund revenue by about $1,100, according to the analysis.
A separate analysis of the bill, by the House Fiscal Agency, states that “because it is not known how many veterans organizations would avail themselves of the exemption, it is not possible to calculate a fiscal impact.”
The House analysis, however, concludes that “if the maximum potential reduction of a single exemption is $1,500, the combined impact from all organizations is likely to be small.”
Buggia said “The state will take a hit, but we feel like this is something it should not be profiting off of, anyway.”
Mills, 29, a 2005 Vassar High School graduate, is the son of Dennis and Cheri Mills of Tuscola County’s Vassar Township. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his injuries.
Mills, a star football and baseball player at Vassar High School, was critically injured on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. In 2013, he founded the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to help wounded and injured veterans.
Mills, with Marcus Brotherton, has written a book, entitled “Tough as They Come.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org