gas tax

Urge Defeat Of Massive Tax Increase!

Yesterday, ten members of the General Assembly presented a "compromise" tax and spending proposal that includes a substantial increase in taxes and fees for a large portion of Virginia, particularly residents of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Facts about the plan reveal that not all the new revenue is even going to transportation.

Please immediately contact your Delegate (click here) and your Senator (click here) and urge them to vote against this massive tax hike scheme!

Among the taxes that will increase are the state's sales tax, the sales tax on car purchases, and local taxes in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Worse, not all the new revenue will be spent on transportation. According to today's Richmond Times Dispatch:

Not all of the 0.3 percent increase in sales tax goes to transportation. Part of the overall revenue generated by the increased tax would go toward an increase in education funding and other general fund priorities.

The fact is that outside of a constitutional amendment, how Virginia spends our tax dollars can be changed every year through the budget and budget amendments. This plan is no different. In fact, the Senate today again killed, for the second time this session (as it has for years), a proposed constitutional amendment to keep transportation funding off limits to future non-transportation spending whims. So while the fiscal needs for transportation are obvious, those who argue that this plan is going to "solve the problem" of transportation in Virginia are fooling themselves.

This plan is not just a tax increase, but new across the board spending. Make no mistake, if you live in the urban crescent or plan to or need to purchase a new or used car in the future, you are going to pay higher taxes. The idea that our gas prices are going down as a result of replacing the antiquated gas tax with a wholesale gas tax are, honestly, foolish. The plan calls for the elimination of the gas tax (17.5 cents per gallon) with a wholesale gas tax increase, which proponents of the plan indicate will be the equivalent of a 10 cent per gallon tax. The consensus, however, is that the "savings" will not be passed on to the consumer, so we will continue to pay higher prices at the pump.

It's disappointing that those involved in the negotiations of this plan couldn't come up with a solution to our transportation needs that didn't include placing even more financial burden on already struggling families and small businesses in the face of even more national fiscal uncertainty. Unfortunately, there is a lack of political will in Richmond to fix one of the biggest problems we face (outside of federal mandates that continue to destroy our state economy) — an antiquated and irresponsible public school funding formula that costs billions of dollars for more and more administration and fewer teachers. There's no doubt that the issues faced are complex and difficult, but this plan is simply not the best solution for Virginia's families.

Please contact your Delegate (click here) and your Senator (click here) immediately and urge them to vote against the tax increase!

Notice Those Gas Prices?

If you've filled up at the pump recently, you've noticed that it's costing a lot more. In fact, according to AAA, gas prices have risen 31 consecutive days. Unfortunately, if some members of the General Assembly have their way, the impact on your family is only just beginning. As we enter the final week of the 2013 session, the topic of funding transportation dominates. Currently, ten members of the legislature, five from each chamber, are meeting to work out a plan based on legislation introduced on behalf of Governor Bob McDonnell and several other proposals. If they can come to an agreement, the plan they concoct could be voted on very quickly, with little time for legislators or citizens to look at the details.

Some members of both parties want to hike the gas tax, either directly or through "indexing" it to inflation. The governor's proposal would eliminate the gas tax but replace the revenue with an increase in the sales tax. Other elements being discussed include giving local governments the authority to "raise revenue," i.e. raise your taxes, without having to do it through referenda. The price tag on the competing plans comes in somewhere between $800 and $900 million per year in increased funding for transportation, the majority of which comes from increased revenue.

While there is little doubt that transportation is an issue that needs addressing, we urge the General Assembly to keep in mind the devastating effect increased gas prices have had on Virginia's families and small businesses. Increasing that burden even more during a time where some are predicting $5 a gallon gas prices by the end of the year could have a disastrous effect on Virginians. We recognize that there are serious needs in the area of transportation and are hopeful a plan can be agreed to, but it cannot unduly increase the financial burden on our struggling families.

Please contact your Senator (here) and your Delegate (here) and urge them to not increase your taxes in the transportation plan!

A Positive Proposal On Transportation

Much of the discussion and attention of this year's legislative session thus far has been surrounding how to fund transportation. Governor Bob McDonnell initiated the discussion with a bold plan to be the first state in the nation to eliminate the archaic gas tax and replace that revenue with numerous other tax and fee changes. Yesterday, Senator Steve Newman (R-23, Forest) introduced a plan that would replace the gas tax with a sales tax of 5.5 percent on gas, but keep the state sales tax at 5 percent. This proposal is a very positive development in the debate surrounding how to fund transportation.

To this point, we have been monitoring the various proposals and debates in committee, knowing that the initial offers from Governor McDonnell and others would not be the final package. Unfortunately, liberals in Richmond have their own plans — and they include massive tax hikes in the billions of dollars that would cripple our economy and rip money from our families, already paying at least $3.60 a gallon for gas in some parts of the state, during some of the most challenging economic times we've ever faced.

Senator Newman's plan offers legislators an opportunity to address the needs of transportation — and there are needs — without increasing the tax burden on Virginia families. There is no doubt that the General Assembly has an opportunity this year to address an issue that has been challenging our elected officials for years. Senator Newman's plan is the best proposal we've seen at this point.

The House and Senate will vote on various plans, have more committee meetings, amendments, floor surprises and, ultimately, conference committee process that will change its content faster than the twists in an Albermarle County back road. So no one knows exactly what the outcome will be until the final days of session. We do know that we will oppose any plan that taxes Virginia families' hard earned income and that Senator Newman's plan has provided a new, improved platform from which to continue the discussion.

Wagner: Don't Raise Only The Gas Tax, Raise Them All!

This from the Washington Post's Virginia Politics Blog, posted last night by Fredrick Kunkle:

At the Democratic Club meeting in Fairfax County's Greenspring Village retirement community, there was no hemming and hawing Tuesday about whether Virginia should boost the gas tax to fix Northern Virginia's roads.

From the mouths of lieutenant governor candidate Jody Wagner, fellow Democrat Del. Vivian E. Watts, and several folks in the audience, the message was: Bring it on. ...

But the thrust of her remarks suggested that she believes not only that higher gas taxes must be part of a long-term solution, but that other new revenues might also be necessary.

Really, there's nothing to add to such a frank, Mondale-like admission. Oh, wait. There is. Ms. Wagner has forfeited all credibility in calling "negative" the television ads Lt. Governor Bill Bolling is running, which highlight her tax increase pedigree. By her own admission, the ads are, in fact . . . very true!

Jody Wagner calls for higher taxes in front of fellow Democrats, then calls this negative. Go figure.

Chairman Oberstar, Meet Chairman Kaine; Chairman Kaine, Meet Chairman Oberstar.

Governor Tim Kaine, who doubles as the chairman of the Democrat National Committee, got a dressing down from a senior Congressional Dem the other day. U.S. Rep. James Oberstar (D - Minn.), a chairman himself — of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, one of the most important in Congress because of the mammoth amount of money it spends each year — sent Chairman Governor Kaine a harsh letter for Virginia's 51st place ranking among the states and D.C. in spending of "federal" money for transportation projects. You remember those projects, the ones that were "shovel ready" and supposedly would lift us out of the recession. You know, the same Governor Kaine (contact here) who is so concerned about Virginia's transportation problems that he's tried to raise our taxes ever year in office, including the first week of his tenure, even after campaigning that he would not raise taxes; the same governor who wanted to tax gas when it was $4.00 a gallon? The same governor Creigh Deeds says he'll model himself after?

Here's an excerpt from Rep. Oberstar's letter (read the entire volley here):

Based on the State progress reports submitted to the Committee in September 2009, Virginia has fallen far behind other States in putting to work its Recovery Act Highway formula funds. According to submissions received from all States and the District of Columbia, your State ranks last among all States (51 out of 51) based on an analysis of percentage of Recovery Act Highway formula funds put out to bid, under contract and underway.

As of August 31, Virginia had begun construction of projects totaling only 17 percent of the State's funding.

I strongly urge you to refocus your efforts to implement the Recovery Act and use the available funds to create and sustain family-wage jobs. These jobs are critical to Virginia's and the nation's long-term economic growth.

In August 2009, almost six months after enactment of the Recovery Act, I sent letters to the best and worst performers in putting to work Recovery Act highway funds. Since then, we have watched many states move aggressively. ... 

Regrettably, Virginia is not among these States.

Anita Kumar of the Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog has the complete story in two parts: Her initial post (here) and a follow-up (here). We're sure Governor Kaine will have a private response to Rep. Oberstar, who should know this is no way to address the chairman, especially when it validates the governor's critics — the same critics he's tried to ostracize, demagogue and steamroll the last four years — and undercuts his gubernatorial nominee.

High Water Mark

This afternoon has been the high water mark thus far for the Special Tax Session of the General Assembly. Moments ago, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw's 35 percent increase in the gas tax passed the Senate on a party-line vote of 21-16 (interestingly, two Tidewater Senators, Blevins and Quayle are absent today . . . hmmm). The bill now goes to the House where . . . for two hours this afternoon the House Rules committee drilled the state's transportation secretary and Minority Leader Delegate Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) on the Governor's tax hike bill. Republican Delegates Cox, Hogan, Landes, Griffith, and Speaker Howell, really led the charge. The most interesting moments were when Armstrong and the Governor's representative argued that "raising taxes won't affect people's actions" and that they don't believe higher taxes on new cars will reduce car sales or a higher tax on selling a house will make it harder to sell a house. Except when it comes to the gas tax, where Armstrong argued that a higher tax will hurt sales. Republicans were incredulous. 

No vote was taken, delayed by the Speaker until "after the Senate does something." Word is that the entire House of Delegates will get the opportunity to vote on the Governor's package, and on the statewide hike in the gas tax. Neither will be killed in committee. Republicans want Delegate Brian Moran (D-46, Alexandria), candidate for Governor, and others on record. 

There are also rumors that the General Assembly will be back for at least a day or two next week.

If nothing else, this week has proven to be great political theater. No one believes any policy of substance will materialize, but the debates have been great and the competing strategies interesting to see evolve. Only time will tell which strategy will prevail.

Floor Fireworks

The General Assembly convened today for its special "tax session," and the rhetorical fireworks started flying right away. After Governor Tim Kaine urged passage of his $1 billion tax hike while he addressed a joint session of the House and Senate, members of the House Republican caucus went on the attack. Delegate Kirk Cox, the majority whip, (R-66, Colonial Heights) ridiculed the governor's defense of the Virginia Department of Transportation. Delegate Bill Janis (R-56, Henrico) criticized the governor for ignoring the financial difficulties of "average Virginians" while asking for higher taxes. He also kept up his attack on Kaine for being "absent" during this process, saying he is more interested in "campaigning for the Vice Presidency." 

House Majority Leader Morgan Griffith (R-8, Salem) ripped the Governor for failing to provide any leadership and bringing the GA back without having gotten consensus on a plan. Griffith was particularly critical of the governor's inability to find a Senate patron for his transportation bill (at least as of the beginning of today's session). "Normally we come to special sessions to close the deal, not start the debate," Griffith said.

Democrats supporting the tax hikes accused opponents of being "closed minded."

Consensus around the capitol is that no legislation will pass this week. Most believe that Kaine called the special session knowing the legislature would fail to pass his tax hike so he can use it as a campaign issue next year. That said, the debate should be interesting — and the rhetorical battle is probably just getting started.

Poll: What Do You Think Should Happen At The Special Tax Session?

We all know what the governor and many legislators want to happen at The Special Tax Session starting June 23. But what do you think should happen? Then, after you vote, post your solutions, ideas and comments on this thread. Who knows? Maybe somebody in the General Assembly will like what you think. Remember our lottery idea? If you are creative enough, anything is possible. Voting ends June 25.