This Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee will consider an important constitutional amendment that will bring much needed reform to Virginia's budgeting process, slow down tax and fee increases, and bring some transparency to the way our lawmakers raise and spend our hard earned tax dollars.
HJ 615, patroned by Delegates Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) and Bob Marshall (R-13, Manassas), will safeguard our tax dollars by banning tax and fee increases, as well as banning the termination of tax credits, in the budget bill. The budget bill is supposed to be a spending bill only. But in recent years, governors and legislators of both parties have stuck tax and fee increases in it (such as when Mark Warner pushed through his infamous tax increase). The budget bill, which contains more than $70 billion, is given to lawmakers on the last day of session and they only have a few hours to digest it. It is nearly impossible to pick out tax increases of any type.
This resolution passed the House 80-15. If it passes the Senate this year and both chambers again next year, Virginia voters will vote on it in November 2012. But we must start with a positive committee vote Tuesday so it can get to the Senate floor.
If the General Assembly needs more revenue to fund its projects and programs, it should have the courage to propose and vote on ending tax credits and increasing taxes and fees separately, up or down, on the record. Increases in our tax burden should not buried in a must-pass budget with deadline pressure to approve so that state government can continue to function. But with transparent, separate tax increase bills and up-and-down on-the-record votes, we doubt lawmakers will be in any hurry to raise our taxes. So, this not only is a reform of the budget process that adds transparency, it’s a step toward reducing the size of government.
This resolution received a positive vote in sub-committee this week (5-1 with one abstention), but some of the senators who voted for it and the abstention expressed reservations and said they may still change their vote in full committee. Your voice is crucial to ensuring this much needed open government resolution passes so that we voters eventually get a chance to pass our own judgment on it.