For the nearly 1 million people who live in the city of Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover, the alarm has sounded. Apparently, the business elites and their politician and government bureaucrat proxies have a bit of NOVA-envy. A panel of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission has approved the Central Virginia Regional Transportation Authority. However, given the scope of taxes it would be empowered to levy, it is grossly misnamed. We'll call it the Tax Authority. It would be able, according to today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, to raise in taxes "more than $108 million . . . annually to finance road-building and other projects." (Not to mention the inevitable staff, offices, travel to conferences and other government extravagance.) It will have the power to take your money
"from seven new or increased taxes or fees, including a 2 percent increase in the gas tax, a 40-cent increase in the grantor's tax on real-estate transactions and a 1 percent first-time vehicle registration fee." (Emphasis added.)
The Richmond area is a growing, dynamic area for sure, home to about 13 Fortune 1000 corporate headquarters, seven universities and colleges, and Mr. Jefferson's capitol, among many other notable institutions that help it thrive. But who here is complaining about traffic? Metro Richmond is not NOVA, nor is it a wannabe. It isn't even Hampton Roads (hold your jokes until after class). At least not its citizens. Maybe the politicians have NOVA-envy. However, there's no clamor to emulate the megapolitan Northern Virginia's failed idea of burdening hard-working families, with already stretched budgets, with another layer of government and another layer of taxers and spenders waiting to dip their hands into our bank accounts. Not when local spending is as wasteful as state spending (read this and this and this and this — and that's just for starters and only for Richmond City). (Don't laugh if you live in Goochland, New Kent, Powhatan or any of the other 16 localities in the planning district — you may be next. Your politicians will be allowed to petition their way into this Tax Authority, too.)
How tone deaf can these bureaucrats and politicians be? Are they that beholden to big business to do their bidding even now, when these authorities have been voted down in other regions? When these same fees are so unpopular, even Governor Tim Kaine couldn't bully them through this summer's Special Tax Session? When the Supreme Court ruled another version of them unconstitutional — unanimously? Especially in such slow economic times? Do they not know the three taxes listed above are extra burdens on the three most troubling sectors of the economy? Is big business that desperate to make us taxpayers subsidize roads for their malls, office parks and residential areas?
As of now, this scheme isn't close to finalization. First, each governing body of the member jurisdictions must approve it, although some of the geniuses who created it are on those bodies. Then the General Assembly must approve it and the governor sign it.
The typical RINO suspects are behind the deal. One is Hanover County Supervisor John Gordon. Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett has about as much patience for your money as Dracula has for blood — he drafted the plan. (He also pushed a referendum for a $20 million meals tax in 2005 that was defeated.) What remains to be seen is whether Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) and Delegate Frank Hall (D-69, Richmond) will bring back their bills in the 2009 General Assembly session allowing the creation of the Tax Authority. They were tabled last session because the local governments had not studied them enough. Look what a little time has done.
You can contact Delegate Hall or Senator Watkins by clicking on their names at the links above. In the meantime, if you live in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico or Hanover, click on the link to look-up your councilman or supervisor and tell them despite their inferiority complex, you have no NOVA-envy.