Empower local governments, support disabled veterans, improve fiscal management

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When voters go to the polls on Tuesday, on the ballot will be three proposed amendments to the Virginia Constitution. I hope you will join me in supporting all three so we can give local governments more power over real estate tax relief, help totally disabled veterans stay in their homes and more effectively manage Virginias long-term finances.

Currently, the Virginia Constitution prohibits local governments from setting their own rules for real estate tax relief. That means that when real estate values skyrocket as they did just a few years ago legislators in Richmond, the majority of whom have no clue about our communitys local needs, can only impose a cookie-cutter, statewide approach to real estate tax relief, forcing urban, high-cost areas like ours to live by policies better suited to poorer, rural areas.  

A yes vote on Question 1 would amend the Virginia Constitution so the General Assembly can give local governments the power and flexibility to set their own rules for real estate tax relief for people who are 65 years of age or older or for people who are permanently and totally disabled.  I hope you will join me in voting yes on Question 1.

That said, sometimes a statewide approach is appropriate because people from every corner of the Commonwealth agree on an issue of basic principle. This is certainly the case when it comes to caring for Virginians whom the American people sent into harms way but were rendered 100 percent permanently and totally disabled because of their military service. A yes vote on Question 2 would amend the Virginia Constitution to exempt from real estate taxes the homes of this small handful of veterans men and women who were so totally and permanently disabled in service to their country that they survive on the support of others. As a veteran who has lost friends to their military service and as a Virginian who believes that real estate taxes should not drive these heroes from their homes I hope you will join me in voting yes on Question 2.

The third question is a matter of responsible long-term fiscal management.  Virginias Revenue Stabilization Fund (also known as the rainy day fund) is used to offset revenue shortfalls that help protect core services like education, public health and public safety in the event of an economic downturn. Currently, the Virginia Constitution caps that fund at 10 percent of average annual income tax and sales tax revenues for the preceding three fiscal years. A yes vote on Question 3 would expand it to 15 percent.  In light of $11 billion in cuts to state services over the past five years, and considering that the General Assembly this year balanced the budget by raiding the states pension trust fund (a major reason I voted against the budget), its clear that we are not putting aside enough for tough times. Therefore, I hope you will join me in voting yes on Question 3 to expand the rainy day fund so we can manage Virginias long-term finances more responsibly and do a more effective job protecting core services when times are tough.

These three constitutional amendments passed the General Assembly earlier this year with broad bipartisan support. While Democrats, Republicans and Independents may disagree about which candidates to support on November 2, I hope we can all come together to empower our local governments, support our most disabled veterans, and improve the fiscal management of our Commonwealth.

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