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As I stated in a recent post, tomorrow voters across Virginia will have the chance to vote on three amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  After considerable thought, research, and a bit of debate among the members of The Jeffersoniad, I have decided to vote against all of them.

To refresh your memory, the first proposed amendment reads, “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?”  Although I am of the opinion that the more localized government the better, I am leery of creating exemptions from property taxes.  I am concerned that once we start creating these blanket exemptions, they will continue to proliferate.  Property is property, regardless of the age, condition, or status of the person who happens to own it.  Once we set up these age or disability limitations, is it that big of a leap for someone in the General Assembly to move to create additional exemptions based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or something else?  As all citizens should be equal under the law, I cannot support this amendment.

For the same reasoning as the first amendment, I cannot support the second one either.  To remind you, it reads, “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?” Again, I believe this amendment creates a slippery slope.  We should certainly honor and respect our veterans, but is tax exemption the answer?  So what about only partially disabled veterans?  They served our state and our nation.  Shouldn’t they be given some sort of benefits too?  And if we exempt some people from property taxes, will the General Assembly merely forgo the lost tax revenue?  Or will they raise some sort of new tax to cover the shortfall?  Lastly, should we compel widows and widowers to not remarry simply to reap tax incentives?  Again, I say no.

Finally we have, “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?”  Although, on the surface, this amendment sounds good, I believe it will ultimately lead to higher taxes and an increased size of the government in Richmond.  Rob Schilling addresses this issue when he writes,

Increasing the allowable size of Virginia’s “rainy day fund” by 50% is a colossally bad idea. The state is not a bank, an investment, or a savings account; it should hold as little of the people’s money as is practical.

Funds retained by government are unavailable to the state’s economy and thus stifle economic activity both of businesses and individuals.

In addition, fattening the state’s “slush” fund encourages growth in the size and scope of state government, and it is a disincentive to vital cost cutting and budget reform/reduction measures.

Although I am aware that most of the members of the General Assembly will disagree, I cannot support any of these amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  To borrow another quote from Mr. Schilling, “Don’t be fooled by seemingly sympathetic subjects.  Progressive taxation and government largesse have not benefited America in the preceding century.  The 2010 ballot questions are bad news for liberty loving Virginians, and if passed, they will result in greater state control over our everyday lives.”  Now if you haven’t made up your mind on these issues I encourage you to do so before you go vote tomorrow.  Amending the Virginia Constitution is serious business.  I cannot support these proposed amendments and so I encourage you to act likewise and vote no on each and every amendment.

Update:  As discussed, other members of the Jeffersoniad have weighed in on the amendments.  Rick Sincere, Crystal Clear Conservative, Yankee Phil, Brian Kirwin of Bearing Drift, and Tom White of Virginia Right! recommend Virginia voters reject all three too.  However such thoughts are not uniform among conservative bloggers as the Right-Wing Liberal supports the first and third while opposing the second and JR Hoeft of Bearing Drift will vote for the first and second and is against the third.

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Although I was unaware until very recently, here in Virginia we will be voting for more than just candidates on next month’s ballot.  We have three, count ‘em three, potential amendments to the Virginia Constitution.  Although I doubt many of us have read the Virginia Constitution, a great pity, I encourage you to check out this important document.  It can be found on the internet here.  In order to make the right decision concerning these three amendments, you need to know what each do.  Here to explain is my State Senator, Mark Obenshain.

Many voters will be surprised to see three Virginia Constitutional Amendments on the ballot when they vote in three weeks (or earlier if voting by absentee ballot).  I write this to provide a quick overview of the three constitutional ballot questions you will see when you vote.

All three amendments address taxation and revenue issues, and all three have passed the General Assembly two consecutive years (with nearly unanimous votes), as is required by the Constitution of Virginia, and they now go before the voters for final approval.

The first ballot question reads as follows: “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?”

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.

The second ballot question asks: “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?”

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.

Finally, the third ballot question says: “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?”

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%.

If you have any questions about these three ballot items, please do not hesitate to let me know – and please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 2nd!

Thank you Senator Obenshain with your words of insight.  Hopefully all Virginians, myself included, take the time to read and learn about these amendments to determine which, if any, are right for us.

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