When you head to the voting booth tomorrow, chances are you know exactly who you’re going to vote for. You’ve heard a ton of stuff about the Democratic and Republican candidates for House and Senate, and maybe even some of the down-ballot races that only matter within the 12-block radius of the city that you live in. But… do you know what’s up with those constitutional amendments tacked onto the end of the ballot? The confusing questions full of legal jargon that you have to answer with no preparation and only a dim understanding of the issues they address?
It’s OK, we usually don’t either. But this year, we decided we’d do some digging, figure out what is up with those, and share it with all of you, so we know which way to go when we’re all standing in the voting booth staring at these questions after a long day at work.
There are two state constitutional amendments on the ballot this election; if “yes” wins the majority on either one, it will result in changes being made to the VA State Constitution. No pressure, right?
Both amendments concern tax exemption. The first proposed change reads, “Should a county, city, or town be authorized to provide a partial tax exemption for real property that is subject to recurrent flooding, if flooding resiliency improvements have been made on the property?”
In plain terms, this means local governments and the General Assembly would partially exempt properties that flood regularly from their usual property tax burden, if improvements have been made to address flooding on the property.
The question you have to ask yourself is: do I want the government giving special tax breaks to people who continue to occupy areas that flood often? According to Ballotready, “This amendment would falsely empower local districts to provide these breaks to property owners, creating an uneven set of tax exemption standards across the state.”
Certainly property owners who are subject to repeated flooding might claim that there’s an uneven burden placed on them as they become responsible for protecting their property from said flooding. But others might think it’d be better if those people just move their business to higher ground. Which one makes the most sense to you? The choice is yours!
The second constitutional amendment change is, “Shall the real property tax exemption for a primary residence that is currently provided to the surviving spouses of veterans who had a one hundred percent service-connected, permanent, and total disability be amended to allow the surviving spouse to move to a different primary residence and still claim the exemption?”
There’s a lot to parse in this one, but a clearer way to state this one is that it allows spouses of deceased veterans to continue receiving housing support from the government if they move out of the house in which they lived with their spouse.
The question here is: should spouses of deceased veterans be able to scale down from the family home they once occupied into an apartment, or an assisted living facility? These are real questions that face people as they age, and if their survivor benefits disappear once they choose to move, they may feel trapped into a living situation that no longer serves their needs — and may carry financial burdens of its own.
On the other hand, choosing to move could destroy a surviving spouse’s ability to provide for themselves if their ability to pay for housing disappears with the move. Disabled veterans like Captain Pat Horan of McLean, VA argue that it’s important to take care of spouses who’ve cared for their partners after the injuries they sustained in combat.
“They should be rewarded. What she’s done for me, she’s been with me for 11 years since I got hurt and she’s pretty much with me almost every day,” Horan told 13NewsNow. “It’s supporting military spouses that have sacrificed almost as much as the wounded veteran, honestly. My life is forever changed. It’s just a wonderful way to give. A little extra financial support in a time of grief,” his wife Patty added.
Most states don’t allow this sort of benefit to travel with the spouse after the veteran dies, but as Capt. Horan has argued, there is a case for allowing it. Where do you stand on it? Let the government know tomorrow.
Regardless of how you vote on these and any other choices you face on your ballot tomorrow, those of us at RVA Magazine want to encourage you to vote! Exercise the rights you’ve been given, and make your voice heard!
Written by Marilyn Drew Necci and Sage Cannady