Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Constitutional Change - two outta three ain't bad

In much of the 6th District there is little compelling reason to bring voters to the polls on November 2. In spite of some grousing by tea party types that Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R) is just another "power-hungry career politician," the incumbent will again break his five term "pledge" and coast to victory by defeating Libertarian Stuart Bain and independent Jefffey Vanke. Neither Bain nor Vanke has made even a anemic blip on voters' radar.

Yes, there are spirited contests in some localities. For example, Harrisonburg has six candidates (two Republican, two Democratic, and two independent) vying for two city council seats. There is also an election for a couple of school board seats. A drive through the "Friendly City" shows far more local candidate than congressional signs and we might expect turnout there to be higher than in surrounding areas.

Virginia voters will vote on three constitutional amendments. One will raise the cash cap on the so-called "rainy day fund" by 50% to rebuild it faster. This fund is essentially a saving account in which the General Assembly deposits funds during "good times" and make withdrawals during shortfalls caused by economic slowdowns. The General Assembly passed the proposal unanimously... most Republicans like the idea of shrinking government by taking some money out of current budgets while Democrats laud the safety net.

Voters will also consider two other amendments, one dealing with with property tax exemptions for senior citizens. Currently a locality must get permission from the General Assembly to give tax breaks to low income or disabled seniors. This amendment would allow local governing bodies to make their own decision.

The other amendment intends to help veterans (or their surviving spouse) who were totally disabled during their service by exempting them from local property taxes on their home. This break would apply to some 7,000 veterans across the Commonwealth.

You can read the actual text of the amendments at the State Board of Elections. Typically, voters go along with the General Assembly and approve amendments (simple majority vote does it) to the state constitution. Should they do so this time? My position - two outta three ain't bad:
  • Increasing the rainy day fund makes sense to me. Perhaps it is the teaching of my depression-era parents, but in my personal life I've operated on this principle. Seems like a good idea for the Commonwealth to sock away funds for the tough times, too. Vote YES on ballot question #3.
  • I also like the idea of giving local governments the ability to grant tax exemptions to certain senior citizens without having to ask permission of the General Assembly. This is a decision best left to local officials based on local circumstances. Vote YES on ballot question #1.
  • While I generally support the notion of a tax break for disabled veterans, I do not support the General Assembly doing so with local tax dollars. The previous amendment grants more autonomy to local governments, this one encroaches on it. For that reason alone, voters should vote NO ballot question #2.


Anonymous said...

The Veteran Tax Amendment deserves a solid YES vote. The amendment is actually narrow in there are only about 7000 that are 100% permanently disabled Vets in the Commonwealth and only about 4000 own homes. These Veterans who sacrificed for our Nation deserve our vote -- and respect. Vote YES for amendment 2.

Belle Rose said...

A better approach would be (similar to amendment #1) for the General Assembly to empower local governments to make that decision for themselves. Richmond should not spend localities' money.

Anonymous said...

So the Fire Fighters and Policeman who have been hurt protecting us don't deserve a tax break ? Where to we stop ? Should crossing guards a local that stumped his toe get a break ?

Anonymous said...

maybe the state should replay the money it took out of the state retirement fund before it starts putting more aside for a rainy day.

DAV said...

As a disabled vet myself (although not 100%) I think that the vet amendment is foolhardy. It's an unfunded mandate that puts the burden on localities. It also ignores all those vets who rent homes because they can't afford to buy a home. Don't they deserve help too? Lastly, once the word gets out that VA has this entitlement what's to stop vets from other states moving here to capitalize on the tax amendment at our expense?