Also on the ballot next week are constitutional amendment issues (Update!)

(Update: please be sure to read the comments section for other insights worthy of your consideration!)

Candidates are not the only things Virginia will decide upon next Tuesday. There are constitutional amendments that are also up for a vote. Thanks to Loudoun’s own Delegate Tag Greason of the 32nd District, we have a very nice summary of those questions. I will be quoting his e-mail pretty extensively.

Please note that all 3 of these questions have been voted on in the General Assembly and passed (incidentally, by nearly unanimous votes). In accordance with the Virginia Constitution, these amendments must now be passed by the citizenry of Virginia on our general ballot. Del. Greason is on record as voting “yes” on all three. I’ll be quoting the actual text of the question first and then offer Tag’s comments below that, marked with “TAG:”.

“Shall Section 6 of Article X of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to authorize legislation that will permit localities to establish their own income or financial worth limitations for purposes of granting property tax relief for homeowners not less than 65 years of age or permanently disabled?”

TAG: Currently, localities are only authorized to make exemptions for those who bear an “extraordinary tax burden,” or with the express approval of the General Assembly, which occasionally passes legislation authorizing specific localities to afford local property tax relief to senior citizens or the disabled. This amendment, if approved, would allow local governments to make the decision on their own, without going to the General Assembly for approval.

I am usually leery of authorizing any local government to monkey around with taxes, primarily because I don’t perceive them to have been too proficient in doing so in the past. Local Boards tend to think they need to having taxing authority so they can enact all manner of local goodies of which I generally disapprove. However, in this case, the text of the amendment is quite clear that a locality can only adjust their financial worth limitations for the purposes of tax relief, a term squarely associated with reducing taxes and not levying them. That makes sure the localities are only ratcheting their taxes down, not up. I’m OK with this.

“Shall the Constitution be amended to require the General Assembly to provide real property tax exemption for the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability?”

TAG: If approved, this amendment would require a statewide exemption from local property taxes for the primary residence of any 100% disabled veteran, provided that the veteran’s disability is service-related. A surviving spouse could continue to claim the exemption so long as the same home remains his or her primary residence, and s/he does not remarry.

Becoming disabled while serving in our military is more than sufficient a reason, in my view, to grant that person a full exemption from local property taxes. I approve.

“Shall Section 8 of Article X of the constitution of Virginia be amended to increase the permissible size of the Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the “rainy day fund” from 10 percent to 15 percent of the Commonwealth’s average tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years?”

TAG: In other words, should we expand the allowable size of Virginia’s “rainy day fund,” to which state government contributes in good years to provide resources for lean years? Currently, the maximum size of the Fund – which is almost empty at present – is 10% of the Commonwealth’s average annual tax revenues from income and sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years; this amendment would up the maximum allowable amount to 15%.

Under normal circumstances I would wholeheartedly agree that increasing the size of the allowable savings would be a great idea. What I immediately fear is that the General Assembly might raise taxes or keep them at a particular level not because they need to do so, but solely to fill this fund up to the full 15%. In other words, will pumping this cash into this reserve become the reason a given tax is enacted or raised?

Still, having the cushion would help out a lot.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to hold my own counsel on this one. At this moment, I am truly undecided. You need to decide for yourself as well. Something to think about over the next week.



  1. Brian at NovaCommonSense had an excellent write up on the 3 VA constitutional amendments and I agree with his analysis. I will be voting against all 3.

  2. I will be voting No on the 3 State amendments and Hell No on the School Bond issue for Loudoun County.

    The State amendments sound good on the surface, but it simply adds complication to the tax code, and provides for another vehicle where elected officials can dole out favors to specific groups. Forget for a second that the group is veterans, a deserving group if ever there was one. However, the next time it be another group and then another and the next thing you know we have added a zillion pages of code and now have the costs associated with implementation, administration as well as the outside costs of compliance. For every line of code crafted in Richmond , ten lines are created in the private sector in order just to comply. These are costs that are NEVER properly calculated because it is always just north of a wild ass guess on the part of the bureaucrats. The very dynamic nature of these kind of regulations are more often than not lost on the massive middle bureaucracy that administrators the program. They simply ignore the economic unintended consequences, and years later after one administrative amendment after another, you have a program that no longer resembles the original intent with costs that have expanded beyond any ones wildest guess. This usually occues through an administrative amendment or some other means of morphing the legislation to fit a current need or want.

    In the case of the Rainy Day Funds or similar programs , I consider most, not all, but most of these programs to be over taxation. Lets also also remember one very important aspect of this , we all know budgets are almost ALWAYS fattened to begin with. Then on top of that the state is going to add insult to injury and by adding 10% (10% of the actual budget as well as 10% over the budget overage) and extracting this revenue from the economy allowing it to sit in Richmond as opposed to remaining in the private sector where it will do far more good. They are asking to be able to expand that figure from 10% to 15%. For me, 15 % of an entire states budget is far too much capitol to be held in escrow waiting to be used by politicians on A. projects with the loudest constituency and B. plug budget shortfalls. If used to plug shortfalls, all we are doing is rewarding poor budget preparation and process. It becomes a lifesaver for poor performance. We are encouraging bad practices that result in expenditures beyond those calculated.

    Remember, whether capitol is extracted and used within the confines of a specific budget or held in “escrow” to be used for a “Rainy Day ” , it is not available to the markets for use in everyday economic activity. Reaganomics taught us that revenues can grow through reduced taxation. That being true, then it makes no sense for us to screw ourselves by removing additional capitol from the free market and parking it in Richmond.

    As far as the LC School Bond. It is very easy. I will borrow one of my opening lines from my last address to the LC board of supervisors when considering the CBPA. What part of back to back multi- million dollar budget deficits confuses you ?

    Fiscal consistency sports fans. We can not beat up Obama and the Democrats for spending too much money in a recession and then turn around and say yes to Bond Referendums that will result in the extraction of MORE taxes.

    This is the kind of stuff that got us fired in 2008 and gave us Obama in the first place.

    Greg Stone

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