(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.