JOE PAESCH, who paid a high price...


JOE PAESCH, who paid a high price fighting for his country during World War II, got some payback this summer. Posthumously. Evening Sun readers may recall the story of Mr. Paesch. Four months after D-Day in southern France, Cpl. Paesch had nearly half his face blown off by shrapnel.

He was left for dead when the Germans overran the Allied position. He probably would have died if American GIs hadn't retaken the area three days later and discovered a heartbeat in what they at first mistook for a corpse.

Mr. Paesch was exactly the type of former soldier the Maryland legislature had in mind in 1950 when it granted a property tax exemption to all World War II veterans who were 100 percent disabled as a result of a service-connected injury.

But somehow he never learned about the exemption. After finally becoming able to buy a $14,000 house in Federal Hill in 1976, for years he faithfully paid property taxes to the city of Baltimore.

In 1994, after discovering his mistake, he asked for a refund of the taxes he had paid but only was granted the amount applicable under the tax laws' two-year statute of limitations -- $1,860.

Mr. Paesch died Jan. 20 at age 70. He had cancer. But his widow will receive a refund of $8,779 in overpaid taxes under legislation passed by the General Assembly.

That law gives any veteran 100 percent disabled from a service-related injury in World War II until Dec. 31 to apply for a refund of paid property taxes that they were exempt from paying.

The legislature treads on dangerous ground when it passes a law that could set a precedent for others wanting to make claims that are not based on any negligence by the state. The Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation does a credible job putting out the word on all tax exemptions. But it's hard to criticize the final tribute to Joe Paesch. If any World War II vet deserved the property tax exemption, Mr. Paesch did.

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