Homestead exemption proposal killed

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by Jessica Sabbath

A proposed constitutional amendment to give homeowners real estate tax relief is likely dead for the year.  The business community had strongly opposed the legislation.

The measure would have given localities the option to exempt up to 20 percent of a home or farm’s value from real estate taxes. It died in the state Senate today. Nineteen Republicans and two Democratic senators voted to send the bill back to committee under a move that allows the chamber to delay a bill until next year. The other 19 Democrats voted against sending it back to committee.

The move means it would be at least three years before the amendment could be enacted. A constitutional amendment requires passage with identical language from two consecutive General Assemblies, with an election held in between. Then the measure goes before voters in a referendum.

The amendment easily passed both chambers last year, but this year the business lobby raised strong opposition to the amendment. Business leaders were concerned the amendment would not only shift the local real estate tax burden to commercial properties, but that localities would raise other business taxes to make up for lost revenue.

This year, the amendment had passed the House of Delegates unanimously and the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections by an 11-4 vote.

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