Young vetoes measures to eliminate tax incentives for Confederate heritage group

Virginia Gov. Glenn Young on Friday vetoed two bills that would have repealed tax exemptions for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a century-old organization often at the center of debates about the state’s Confederate past and its ethnic history.

By doing so, Mr. Youngin sided with fellow Republicans in the Legislature, who unanimously opposed the bills, and state Democrats opposed efforts to reduce the commonwealth’s relationship with federal heritage organizations. The bills received near-unanimous Democratic support in both houses of the Legislature. (One Democrat did not participate in a referendum.)

The organization’s property tax exemptions were added to the state code in the 1950s, during secession and maintaining a close relationship with the Commonwealth. The Virginia division of the corporation is also exempt from paying registration taxes, which are levied when the sale of property is recorded for public record.

Mr. In a statement explaining his decision, Youngin acknowledged that the property tax exemption is “ripe for reform, limited by inconsistencies and inconsistencies.” But he said the bills were too narrow, specifically targeting United Daughters of the Confederacy, and approving them would set an “inappropriate precedent.”

Lawmakers who introduced the bills said they wanted to modernize the tax code to reflect the state’s current values; They also said that the government should not support organizations that promote the myth of confederation. Critics of the legislation said the bills unfairly targeted the United Daughters of the Confederacy and misunderstood the group and its goals.

Representative Alex Askew, a Democrat who introduced one of the bills, called the governor’s vetoes “confused.”

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“The people of Virginia deserve to know why the governor is giving tax relief to corporations that historically supported slavery,” said Mr. Askew said in a statement, “We will work toward a fairer, more inclusive tax policy that truly reflects our commitment to equality and progress.”

Mr. If Young had signed the bills, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Inc. and the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, both of which face threats to their property tax exemptions.

Stephen Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, said after the Assembly passed the bills in April, “the governor continues to work toward getting him to the Republican base. Because of the political and cultural changes that have occurred in Virginia in recent years, the next time a Democrat becomes governor, the tax breaks will be repealed.” He expected it to be done.

The legacy of the Confederacy is still contested in the state that once housed its capital. In Charlottesville and Richmond, statues and monuments to Confederate figures have dwindled over the past decade, but earlier this month, a rural school district restored the names of Confederate officers to two schools, four years after voting to remove them.

Robert E. Lee and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a men’s heritage organization, briefly passed a bill to revoke special license plates. Governor Young vetoed the bill on Friday.

With his veto on tax exemption bills, Mr. Youngin also prevented the United Daughters of Richmond headquarters, a marble building, from being subject to property taxes. The building, which doubles as a memorial to Confederate war women, has been listed as exempt in the tax code since 1957.

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According to Parrish Simmons, a representative of Richmond’s real estate appraiser, if a law repealed the exemptions, the entity identified as the owner of the property would be responsible for paying the tax. Taxes can be as high as $53,000 per year.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy did not immediately return a request for comment, but in a statement released before the governor’s veto, Ginny Widowski, president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, said legislative efforts to repeal the tax breaks were unfair. Discrimination, “The continued harassment of our women and our work will not deter us from the charitable work we do.”

Since its founding in 1894, the group has been open to membership for women who are descendants of Confederate soldiers. Although the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s stated mission is to honor ancestors through memorial preservation and charitable work, the organization is often associated with Confederate statues, which it raised funds to build throughout the 20th century, and which it still protects.

Legislative efforts to roll back the tax deduction began in 2023, when Representative Dan Scott, a Democrat, introduced a bill that failed in the House, which at the time had a Republican majority.

In January, control of the House was reversed and Mr. After Scott became Virginia’s first black speaker, Mr. Askew reintroduced the bill. In February, she said in an interview that the purpose of the bill was not to interfere with the charitable work of the United Daughters of the Union, but to ensure that the state code better reflected the modern values ​​of the commonwealth.

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Campbell Robertson Contributed report.

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