Note: Pardon the lack of posts lately. Been too busy but feeling guilty to for the blank pages here.
Kaine is off and running. I attended the Herndon affair, and I’m glad to see that the promise to address property taxes now has substance.
The property tax issue is a fair one, even more than the car tax ever was. Yes, people hated the car tax because it had to be paid all at once, and fortunately for Gilmore, it is due, at least in Fairfax, at the height of the campaign season.
But the property tax issue is legitimate for older folks on fixed incomes. “Fixed incomes” is a misnomer. Most of us have fixed incomes, of course, and that is the reason property taxes increases gets some traction outside of the geriatric set. But for some older folks whose pensions and Social Security will not likely increase much, 30% annual increases can be a burden.
Kaine’s solution has merit but isn’t perfect (as opposed to any idea I might have, of course).
Finding a way to divorce home tax rates from commercial ones is a sound idea. The markets act independently and should be treated that way. If it takes a constitutional amendment, well, so be it, although I am amazed we need to write it into the constitution, for God’s sake.
But allowing localities to do carve out a homestead exemption is only part of the solution, as Kaine’s proposals recognize. But there’s the rub, of course: The whole program requires a lot of separate acts to occur, which is unlikely.
Making the counties whole for the loss revenue is exactly what Gilmore proposed with his car tax. So instead of a local income, the car tax became a state expense. Kaine is doing much the same with his proposal that the state fully fund the Standards of Quality for education. The loss of property tax income becomes a state expense. And there are no guarantees.
“…[I]f this is to be seriously pursued, we would like to see a constitutional amendment that would require the state to fully fund the SOQs to guarantee that those revenues would be made available to localities. A mere promise would not be enough,” said [Ellen Davenport of the Virginia Association of Counties.]
And a promise would all it would be. Given that Kaine will likely have a GOP-controlled Assembly for at least a few years, what are the chances that they will help him by fully funding the SOQs?
And what does fully funded mean?
Full state funding of the Standards of Quality would relieve localities of an education burden they now pay for, he said. Gov. Mark R. Warner said the standards are fully funded in the recently approved budget.
So Kaine’s role model is telling us not to expect any more money because the SOQs are already fully funded. Many will argue that’s not true, but fully funded is in the eye of the beholder, I guess.
Kilgore’s camp, of course, jumped on the proposal saying it wouldn’t guarantee anything. They’re right. So I guess we can expect something from Jerry that imposes Richmond’s will on localities, eroding further local independence, supposedly a goal of Republicans who want to get government off our backs.
Kaine’s proposal makes the connection between school costs, which is usually at least 50% of a local jurisdiction’s budget, and property taxes. Kilgore disagrees.
“Clearly, the two are not connected, meaning that Kaine’s recommendation, though laudable by itself, is meaningless when it comes to real estate tax relief,” a Kilgore campaign statement said. “By connecting the two, he is openly trying to deceive the people of Virginia.”
No, Kilgore is. He reminds me of Bob Marshall, who made a similar statement at one of the town hall meetings on the budget last year. As I wrote then,
…Del. Bob Marshall sets us straight: “There is no relationship between state taxes and property taxes,” he lectured. He repeated it several times, perhaps hoping we’d be hypnotized into believing it. “Property taxes are based on assessments,” he said.
Duh, yes, but few would be deceived into thinking that localities don’t have to make up what the state denies.
Give Kaine political credit for trying to come up with something that spreads the responsibility — the Assembly to fund the SOQs, local governments for approving and structuring the 20% relief, the voters for passing the amendment and corporations for taking up some of the slack.
For all those players to act the part will take a not so minor miracle, sure, but politically,
“Given Kaine’s record on taxes, the best defense is a good offense, and this is a terrific offense,” [University of Virginia Professor Larry] Sabato said.