- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

RICHMOND — Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will push this winter for a measure that was among his first campaign pledges: allowing local governments to discount real estate taxes on homes by up to one-fifth.

Mr. Kaine’s proposed constitutional amendment is among several proposed tax breaks for homeowners that the General Assembly will consider after it convenes tomorrow.

The measure would give city councils and county boards of supervisors across the state the option of exempting 20 percent of a house’s value from taxes.

How much money it could save homeowners statewide would depend on how many localities choose to offer the exemption.

Mr. Kaine first proposed the idea in April 2005 in response to growing public alarm — particularly in the state’s most populous and fast-growing areas — to sharp increases in assessed home values on which property taxes are paid. It was one of the first proposals the Democrat made in his come-from-behind gubernatorial run against Jerry W. Kilgore.

Mr. Kilgore, a Republican, proposed a constitutional amendment prohibiting localities from increasing assessments more than 5 percent annually.

Mr. Kaine’s legislation was offered a year ago, but the General Assembly did not act on it because of the timing for handling constitutional amendments. A change in the state constitution requires legislative approval in two successive years with a legislative election in between, then voter approval in a statewide referendum. To put an amendment before voters in the fall of 2008, it would have to win its first legislative passage this year.

Mr. Kaine’s property tax measure, sponsored by Delegate Robert H. Brink and Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, both Arlington Democrats, joins the mix with several other bills aimed at reining in real estate taxes just months ahead of November’s elections for all 40 Senate seats and all 100 in the House of Delegates.

Among them:

• A bill by Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, Prince William Republican, to limit year-to-year property tax rate growth to 3 percent except where population growth and inflation force it higher. No rate increase could yield more than 6 percent year-to-year growth in property tax revenues.

• Delegate John A. Cosgrove, Chesapeake Republican, has a bill that would compel localities to adjust their tax rates downward, limiting overall revenue growth to 1 percent or less, in years when the growth of home assessments would produce a windfall for local coffers.

• Total property tax receipts could grow no more than 5 percent over the previous fiscal year unless the local governing body votes by at least a two-thirds majority for rates that would produce greater revenue under a bill by Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican.

• Delegate Robert G. Marshall, Prince William Republican, wants to boost the annual income threshold for the disabled and elderly to receive property tax exemptions from $72,000 to $75,000 in some Northern Virginia localities.

• A similar bill by Sen. Walter A. Stosch, Henrico Republican, would boost the annual earnings threshold from $52,000 to $62,000 in other unspecified cities and counties for the disabled and elderly to receive property tax exemptions.

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