Election Day is approaching fast. With the many campaign signs that seem to spring up overnight in highway medians and front yards most people know that there are three candidates running for the US House of Representatives 10th District seat. (By the way, is it really necessary to have 30 signs for a single candidate all at one intersection?)
However, this November’s ballot will also include three proposed amendments to the Constitution of Virginia that have not been widely publicized or debated but could make a difference in your tax bill. How will you vote on these three important issues?
Ballot Question 1: 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 and totally disabled?
Hmmmmmâ€¦. Hard to vote against our elderly or challenged neighbors. But what’s up with the phrase “permit localities to establish their own income or financial worth limitations”? What does that phrase mean from a fiscal point of view? If one segment of society gets a tax break then who picks up the balance of the tax bill?
Ballot Question 2: Shall the Constitution be amended to require the General Assembly to provide a 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?
Hmmmmmâ€¦. As with the first ballot question, it’s pretty hard to vote against military veterans. And “a 100 percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability” makes it clear that the benefit will help someone who sacrificed for the United States. But everyone’s struggling right now. Should this amendment be “amended” to include a statement that the General Assembly will find and cut offsetting amounts from other places in the budget to fund this tax break? Or is this amendment important enough to justify an overall increase in our tax bill?
Ballot Question 3: Shall Section 8 or 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 annual tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years?
Hmmmmmâ€¦. Seems like this amendment requires a full analysis of Virginia’s financial condition before pulling the voting lever. “Revenue Stabilization” is an interesting term. (By the way, “revenue” to the General Assembly is euphemism for “taxes” to the rest of us.) But here’s the challenge if you strive to be an informed voter: Exactly what is the Commonwealth’s average annual tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years and how much will a 5% increase mean in terms of additional taxes out of your pocket? And while we’re on the subject, what will the “rainy day fund” be spent for given that there are budget shortfalls just about everywhere you look in Richmond?
It’s probably fair to say that the few people that will turn out to vote in the General Election on Tuesday, November 2nd in Clarke County will not have thought much about these three constitutional amendments, let alone have much of a notion about “the Commonwealth’s average annual tax revenues derived from income and retail sales taxes for the preceding three fiscal years”.
Are any or all of the constitutional amendments being offered this time around “good” or “bad”? Well, maybe, but it’s hard to be sure given the limited amount of information being offered. All three amendments are important because they change the amount that you would pay in taxes.
Here are a few questions that aren’t on the ballot but may deserve consideration and comment;
Has the Commonwealth of Virginia gotten to a point where there is nothing left to cut in the budget or are there still areas with excess or unnecessary spending?
Are there any Commonwealth of Virginia budget areas that you believe deserve funding increases this year? If so, how should the budget increases be funded?
Do you believe that ballot questions, like the three included in this year’s ballot, are presented in a way that provides voters with enough information to make informed decisions?
These are just a few of the questions that we had after looking over this year’s ballot. Are there other questions that need to be asked?
What do you think?