Veto, no

Facing a mound of legislation passed by a Republican General Assembly, Gov. Mark Warner vetoed two bills this week – the repeal of the estate tax and the controversial “Choose Life” license plate. Warner also made changes to a pair of bills governing abortions which will test the resolve of the large GOP legislative majority, which needs a two-thirds vote to override each veto.

Warner should have let the estate tax repeal stand.

Warner claims the estate tax repeal is unwarranted in such dire fiscal times and that it only benefits “the rich.” It’s obvious the governor is using the sticker shock incurred by the car tax repeal to deter the abolishing of the estate or “death” tax.

But repealing the death tax would cost only $211 million over two years (according to Warner’s numbers) which is cheap compared to the overall price tag of the car tax.

The estate tax only targets around 1,000 Virginians, but it’s the principle that matters here. The tax goes after those in line to inherit large land holdings or businesses. Farmers and rural families are often affected. The tax is sometimes so high that all or part of the land has to be sold to pay the bill. With the value of land in Virginia skyrocketing, we’re sure that the estate tax rolls will climb over the years.

The problem with this tax is that it has no purpose. We pay gas taxes with the knowledge that it will help build roads or mass transit. We pay local real estate taxes hoping it will benefit our local schools. The death tax goes to the general fund. Maybe those being taxed would take comfort if they were assured the money went to a specific government operation such as helping the Chesapeake Bay or toward preserving open space. Instead, this money is simply added to the pot where it’s susceptible to the same arbitrary spending and even abuse of day-to-day government operations.

Another problem of the estate tax (and a good reason why the feds did away with it) is its effect on land owners. A land owner who can’t afford to pay the tax will most likely sell the property. While some feel land redistribution is a good thing, the results are often adverse. Most large land owners who are forced to sell don’t hand their property over to preservationists. The land is often sold to someone who divides the property and builds cookie-cutter housing communities. This is happening in Northern Virginia and along the rural lands of the Chesapeake Bay.

When Warner says there is no good reason to get rid of the death tax, we counter by saying there was never a good reason for it in the first place – not for a measly $106 million a year.

Veto, yes

As for the “Choose Life” special license plates, we have one question. Whatever happened to bumper stickers? These are state tags and we don’t need state resources going toward this endorsement or its pro choice counterpart. It’s just more evidence that Virginia should do away with its special license plate program altogether.

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