Citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia will be voting on three state constitutional amendments in this year’s general election. These amendments would each add, remove, or change text in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Question #1: Property Tax Exemptions for the Elderly and Disabled
Currently, the Virginia Constitution (Article X, Section 6, Part B) allows the General Assembly to give localities authority to grant partial or complete property tax exemptions for the elderly and disabled. The exemptions can apply to persons 65 years old or older and to anybody suffering from permanent, total disability, provided the General Assembly has deemed that they bear an “extraordinary tax burden . . . in relation to their income and financial worth.”
The constitutional amendment (PDF link) being presented to the voters as question #1 would modify this provision in two ways. First, it would remove the requirement that the tax exemptions only be granted to people suffering an “extraordinary tax burden.” Second, it would devolve authority from the General Assembly to the localities themselves to set income and financial worth requirements for granting the tax relief.
Since property taxes are the primary funding source for our city and county governments, it makes sense that those same local governments should have the primary authority—and get the blame—for setting property tax rates, establishing exemptions, and determining criteria for exemptions. I endorse a YES vote on question #1.
Question #2: Property Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans
Closely related to question #1, the constitutional amendment (PDF link) being presented to the voters as question #2 would add a new section to the Virginia Constitution (Article X, Section 6-A) requiring the General Assembly to establish a complete property tax exemption for military veterans suffering a permanent, total, service-related disability.
Our disabled military veterans have paid quite enough for our benefit—they’ve paid with their blood. Any property tax relief they get today comes as part of the general relief for the disabled which will, assuming question #1 passes, soon become the responsibility of our localities. This new provision would grant our veterans a standing, state-wide, total property tax exemption that localities could not take away. I endorse a YES vote on question #2.
Question #3: Permissible Size of the ‘Rainy Day Fund’
The Virginia Constitution (Article X, Section 8) establishes a Revenue Stabilization Fund, colloquially called the ‘Rainy Day Fund,’ which the state uses to offset revenue shortfalls when they occur and better maintain its operations through economic downturns. The size of the fund is currently limited to 10 percent of the average of the annual tax revenues for the preceding three fiscal years.
The constitutional amendment (PDF link) being presented to the voters as question #3 would simply increase the permissible size of the Rainy Day Fund from 10 percent to 15 percent of the average of the annual tax revenues for the preceding three fiscal years. This change will give the General Assembly a bit more wiggle room for handling sudden economic downturns without any undue negative impact on the citizens of Virginia. I endorse a YES vote on question #3.