EDITORIAL: Constitutional amendments: Two and a half thumbs-up
There are three Constitutional amendments that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot across Virginia.
All three have passed the General Assembly by overwhelming, bipartisan majorities for two consecutive years. All three relate to tax and revenue issues before the state.
“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?”
“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?”
“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?”
On the first two, we stand in favor of adoption by voters. Anytime we can find a nexus between providing targeted tax relief that supports the most vulnerable in society, the elderly, the disabled, and infirm veterans, and giving back some local control to counties and municipalities when it makes sense to do so, you’ll find us in a position of advocacy.
On the third and final ballot question, we equivocate a bit. While we see the great need for a state “rainy day” fund to help support vital services and programs in an economic downturn, we wonder if the ballot presents a solution in search of a problem.
While plan sponsors say the fund cap needs to be raised from 10 percent to 15 percent by setting aside revenues, we question whether a state with 15 percent in excess revenues shouldn’t find a way to put some of those funds to use right now (transportation, anyone?), rather than overfill a “put it away for tomorrow” fund. Besides, our understanding is that even with the current fiscal doldrums, we haven’t yet depleted the current rainy day fund at the 10 percent cap.
If our roads weren’t in such shocking shape, we might be convinced otherwise on this ballot question. For now, we see no reason to endorse it.