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Vote No On Ballot Initiatives

By Greg L | 30 October 2010 | Virginia Politics | 11 Comments

Voting this year is going to be made painful once again with the inclusion of three ballot initiatives for voters to ponder in addition to selecting their candidates for elected office.  The lines will be long and slow as voters figure out what these ballot initiatives mean, and whether they should support or oppose them.  If recent history provides any indication, they will all pass.  They shouldn’t, and we should have seen this headed off by a General Assembly a little more devoted to principle and a little less concerned about whether they threw the right bones to the right narrow segments of the electorate.

These constitutional amendments deal with providing special property tax exemptions to groups of people, while they are undoubtedly worthy of being relieved of some of the burdens of taxation, will also undoubtedly be augmented by other worthy groups who will become exempt in the future, leaving the burdens of taxation on an ever shrinking productive base.  The principled response is that we should keep taxes low for everyone, not to try to exempt some special cases so the burden of the state upon them is more bearable.

It might sound rewarding to give extra tax exemptions to the elderly, disabled veterans and the like, but not too far down the road the temptation is to add additional groups to this special class.  How about extending this special preference to disabled firefighters?  Families caring for mentally handicapped adult children?  Widows?  Really, the list of folks we’d want to give special dispensation is potentially endless, as there are lots of folks across the commonwealth dealing with very difficult issues, and their issues aren’t dramatically less impactful than the issues we’re addressing in these ballot initiatives.  So instead of heading down this road where we separate citizens into the group that pays for government and the group that doesn’t, it makes sense to ask why we’d want to travel in that direction in the first place.

The federal tax code is chock full of preferential treatment given to give tax relief for worthy and noble purposes.  Almost 98% of that massive 55,000 page tome does nothing but describe the conditions and mechanisms of tax breaks, making it so complex and unwieldy that no one understands it, yet everyone faces criminal prosecution for violating it.  By adding a little here and a little there, a special exemption here and then close the three loopholes that exemption created there, we’re going in the same direction in Virginia as we’ve seen in the federal taxation disaster that has so badly twisted the concept of taxation that the proportion of Americans who pay taxes is roughly equal to the proportion that does not.

We might think we are causing social good with these well-meaning attempts to help some Virginians, but we’re not.  Charity towards these worthy people is something we freely do out of the goodness of our hearts, not with the awesome sword of government power.  When we try to twist the role of government into that of delivering charity to needy people, we don’t end up causing the good we intended and deliver consequences on the public that are terrible.

Shame on our members of the General Assembly who passed the buck on to us because they couldn’t muster the courage to stand on principle.

For more on this, and the specifics of the amendments, I encourage you to read the article at Tertium Quids.

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  1. Anonymous said on 30 Oct 2010 at 11:41 am:
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    I see you address the first two amendments, but what about the rainy day fund? What say you on that?

  2. Zac said on 30 Oct 2010 at 2:26 pm:
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    On the first 2 items it is just another government give away and the rest of us will pay for it, obamanation anyone?

  3. James Young said on 30 Oct 2010 at 4:06 pm:
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    I agree on the first two, but see no harm in the third, and voted — absentee — accordingly.

  4. USA said on 30 Oct 2010 at 4:52 pm:
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    Soooo, the question is - from where did these “initiatives” come, and who vetted them to be on the ballot?

    Let me guess…. Our republican friends?

    Be still my beating heart. Please don’t bore me with the idea that the leftists run Virginia.

  5. Maureen said on 30 Oct 2010 at 7:48 pm:
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    These amendments are pretty much permanent just pass a law .. Not amend the constitution

  6. Maureen said on 30 Oct 2010 at 7:50 pm:
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    And why do I want our government to hold on to 5 percent more money?

  7. Citizen12 said on 30 Oct 2010 at 8:49 pm:
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    USA said on 30 Oct 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Soooo, the question is - from where did these “initiatives” come, and who vetted them to be on the ballot?


    I could be wrong on this but the best I can figure out is the following:

    proposed amendments are considered in two successive sessions of the state’s legislature.

    A majority vote is required (in two successive sessions of) the Virginia General Assembly.

    #1 Old folks tax break
    House HB16 Cole (R)
    Senate SB547 Barker (D)

    #2 Disabled Vet’s tax break
    House HB149 O’Banion (R)
    Senate SB31 Puller (D)

    #3 Rainy day fund increase
    House HB147 O’Banion (R)
    Senate SB362 Barker (D)




    The question as I see it is how big of a state government do you want, and how much of your money, and your fellow Virginians, are you willing to spend to get it.

    IMHO….the basic requirement to get the job done. I will vote no on all three.

  8. Padre said on 30 Oct 2010 at 11:42 pm:
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    The other way to look at the first amendment for consideration is that it gives localities more control than they currently have.

    I can’t think of one reason why the state knows a locality’s financial situation better than the local government.

  9. Just Observin' said on 31 Oct 2010 at 11:01 am:
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    There is much afoot on the State taking whacks at Local Government tax authority:

    The two biggest targets at the Machine & Tool Tax and the BPOL. M&T came under fire in the 2010 GA Session with HB613…fortunately the bill died by two votes. Delegate Cole has two bills on the BPOL which are carryovers to the 2011 Session. Both VML and VACo have come on line to say do not remove these local taxes without replacement and sustainable funding streams.

    When reading the impact statements for the three bills above, the State suffers no economic impact; and all three say the impacts to the local governments is unknown. Removing the M&T hits Manassas for $5Million; no impact to PWC since they have other fees they hit business with and the Park has no large industrial base. BPOL changes would affect all three since PWC picked up $20M, Manassas around $3M and the Park got over $750K for FY2011. So higher local real estate taxes for all if these two are killed!!!!

    And the bright boys and girls in the GA so no local economic impacts???!!!????

    The State also wants to reduce the Corporate Tax rate from 6% to 5.75% as a way to create a “stimulus” for companies to locate in Virginia. The local business taxes are seen impediments to this great “stimulus” idea.

    As for the first amendment, it make no sense since local governments are already doing it. I don’t know about PWC, but Manassas City only has around 290 people age 65+ and/or disabled who received the exemption.

    Senator Puller’s intent is laudable based on her reasons and in truth, across the Commonwealth would only apply to around 5000 maybe getting it. Most Veterans (like me) have much lower ratings. Still, I view it as just jumping on the bandwagon since the mess created with the two sandboxes for the upteen years is producing a lot of kids with 100% disabilities.

  10. Gurduloo said on 1 Nov 2010 at 9:13 am:
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    Way to support disabled veterans there…

  11. Anonymous said on 1 Nov 2010 at 11:10 am:
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    The first amendment does not create a new tax break for seniors or the disabled. The tax break is already in law and has been for decades. It is a local option and is not another state mandate. All the first amendment would do is give local governments more say in who would qualify for the break (if they give the break at all). Right now the General Assembly decides who can qualify for this local tax break.

    If you want to do away with this break for seniors or the disabled all together, voting against this amendment will not do it. Voting against this amendment will just mean another local decision will be made in Richmond instead of by the local board.

    As far as the second amendment goes, I think giving a break to those who have become 100 percent disabled because of their service to the country is not unreasonable.

    I see your point about the third amendment.

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