In many parts of the country, voters will head to the polls tomorrow to select a new Senator or Governor. In Virginia, we have no statewide races. In my home in the Shenandoah Valley, we don’t even have much in the way of a race for House of Representatives, as the Democratic Party didn’t even field a candidate. Nevertheless, we do have a number of races for offices like City Councils, County Supervisors, and School Boards. Although you might consider such a political climate boring, one issue that has drawn my attention is the amendments. This year in the Old Dominion, voters across the commonwealth will be able to voice their opinions on three amendments to the Virginia Constitution. They have already twice passed the General Assembly (our state legislative body). If a simple majority tomorrow approves them tomorrow then they will become our new laws. After considerable thought, research, and a bit of debate among the members of my conservative blogging group, The Jeffersoniad, I have decided to vote against all of them.
For those out of state or not in the know, 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. For the record, 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. Charlottesville radio host 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.” So if you happen to live in Virginia and you haven’t made up your mind on these issues, I encourage you to do so before you go vote tomorrow. Just like the U.S. Constitution, amending the Virginia Constitution is serious business. I cannot support these proposed amendments and so I hope my fellow Virginia voters will reject this trio as well. But Joshua you say, I don’t live in Virginia. Regardless of what state or country you currently reside, I hope that you vote for whatever candidates or issues best represent the cause of constitutional conservatism. We can reclaim this nation, but it starts tomorrow and it starts with you.
For liberty with responsibility!