Virginia's ballot questions

Saturday, October 30, 2010

IN ADDITION TO to candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives and a smattering of local questions, Virginia voters will see three proposed state constitutional amendments on their ballots on Tuesday. Two of the amendments are designed to offer relief to small but beleaguered groups of citizens; the other is meant to provide the state with a bigger budgetary buffer against future economic downturns. Voters should vote "yes" on all three.

Question No. 1 gives cities and counties the flexibility to determine how poor a senior citizen or disabled person must be to qualify for exemption from paying local real estate taxes. This would simplify the unwieldy current procedure, under which localities must seek approval from the state legislature every time they want to set or modify their own definitions of poverty, determined by income or net worth.

Question No. 2 would grant automatic property tax relief to the relative handful of military veterans living in Virginia who have a total and permanent disability stemming from their military service. If the amendment is approved, it would require the General Assembly to enact legislation that would extend that help to the 7,000 veterans around the state who fall into that category, providing they own their principal residence. The measure is in line with Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's pledge to make Virginia the friendliest state in the nation for veterans, and it's a relatively small price to pay to achieve that goal.

Question No. 3 would allow the legislature to set aside more "rainy day" funds in Virginia's budget during good times. The Constitution currently limits the fund to 10 percent of recent tax revenues from state income and sales tax; the amendment would increase the allowable, but not required, level of "rainy day" reserves to 15 percent.

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