small businesses

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!

The War Of 1812 Is History. The BPOL Tax Should Be, Too!

The pace of the General Assembly moves very fast, especially during the short session when committee hearings are compressed into a shorter period. Just this afternoon we were notified that HB 1437, patroned by Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Spottsylvania), which would grant localities the power to keep or discontinue the dreaded BPOL Tax, is in the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow morning. This bill passed the House last week by a 94-5 margin. But we’ve seen in the past that big, bipartisan margins in the House mean nothing in the Senate. So, please contact members of the committee and ask them to vote in favor of this bill!

The BPOL Tax was established to fund the War of 1812. Not only has it outlived that purpose by 199 years, it is inherently unfair, taxing Virginia businesses on gross receipts rather than profit. Companies that lose money still pay a tax! It punishes many small, family-run businesses that run on tight profit margins. In this down economy, government should do all it can to encourage job growth. The BPOL Tax kills jobs and stunts the growth of small businesses — which create 75 percent of all jobs in America — by siphoning away capital they would invest in their businesses and use to hire new employees.

While the local government lobby, which uses your hard-earned tax dollars to lobby for more power at your expense, says it can't afford the loss in tax revenue, HB 1437 only gives localities the option of removing the BPOL Tax. Denying localities the option to end this tax after 199 years is indefensible. Just think: If localities had that option, they could compete against each other for businesses to locate in their city or county to create new jobs. The removal of the BPOL Tax will encourage the start up of new locally-owned businesses as well. 

It's time local governments stop complaining about the loss of revenue and showed concern for the loss of businesses and jobs. Local government always will be in business — but locally owned, small, family-run businesses do not have that guarantee. Government should do all it can to help them. A small business owner in Norfolk lost $70,000 last year, covered by his savings, and still had to pay $4,000 in the BPOL Tax! (See WSLS.com.) Is that how we create jobs in Virginia?

Life Bills In Senate Education And Health Committee Thursday!

It's that time of session again. Thursday, the Senate Education and Health Committee will vote on multiple pro-life bills. This is the committee that has blocked meaningful pro-life legislation for years. Despite the history, we still want to make sure every member of that committee knows where their constituents stand on this issue — particularly since it’s an election year.  Please contact the senators on this committee (click here for committee contact links) and urge them to support SB 1202, SB 1207/SB1378, SB1217, and SB 1435. These pro-life bills could radically change the culture of life in our Commonwealth:

SB 1202: Abortion Funding Opt-Out for ObamaCare ObamaCare puts states in charge of their own health insurance exchanges for individuals and small businesses. If enacted today, Virginia could potentially include in its exchange health insurance plans that cover elective abortion.  Pro-family citizens opposed to abortion would be mandated to fund this unethical destruction of human life. SB 1202, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), is a bill that would prevent insurance plans in the Virginia health insurance exchange from providing abortion coverage. Five other states have taken this step so far, and several more are considering doing so, while Pennsylvania and Maryland are allowing abortion coverage.   SB 1435: Ultrasound/Informed Consent SB 1435, patroned by Senator Ralph Smith (R-22, Botetourt), updates Virginia's informed consent law with modern technology. It would require a woman to have an ultrasound and the option of viewing it prior to an abortion. Currently, a woman is given a pamphlet with generic pictures of fetal development. This bill would give the woman specific information about her child and allow her to make a truly informed decision. It also would help prevent mistaking the gestational age of the unborn child that can lead to illegal abortions. Two years ago, this bill died in this committee with a vote of 11-4.   SB 1378 and SB 1207: Wrongful Death of the Unborn SB 1207, patroned by Senator Obenshain, and SB 1378, patroned by Senator Bill Stanley (R-19, Danville), are bills that would provide protection (civil recourse) for the unborn in cases where they lose their life due to the negligence of another. While Virginia's code does include a fetal homicide law, the same unborn life, taken without intention or premeditation, elicits no civil penalty. Improving our civil law to recognize fetal manslaughter is essential. An unborn life is not only of value when it is wanted by the mother or when its life is intentionally taken by another.   SB 1217: Coerced Abortion SB 1217, patroned by Senator Smith, provides that any person who forces or coerces a pregnant female of any age to have an abortion against her will is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Shockingly, this type of coercion is not currently criminalized. Given that homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women according to a study in the Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health, Virginia needs to do more to protect women and their wanted unborn children. Women should not be forced to abort to avoid violence. Last year, this bill died in this committee by a vote of 10-5.    Be a voice for the voiceless and let these senators know that you will be watching how they vote with the expectation that they will vote yes for life this Thursday.

Big Property Rights Vote Tuesday Morning In Senate Sub-Committee!

After a slow first few days of ceremony and housekeeping, the 2011 General Assembly session moves into a very high gear with several crucial issues before sub-committees. We need you to act immediately on an issue that is the foundation of all of our liberties: Property Rights. Tomorrow at 9:15 a.m., the Senate Privileges and Elections Sub-Committee on Constitutional Amendments will consider SJR 307, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg). This proposed amendment will enshrine in the state constitution the landmark property protection legislation passed in 2007, but which has come under assault in each successive General Assembly.

Without property rights, we don't have secure homes. Without property rights, we don't have the security to practice our faith. Without property rights, we have no economic security. The fact is, ever since the deplorable Kelo decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, local and state governments have had eyes bigger than their stomachs for homes, farms and small businesses to feed their economic development schemes. They've taken private property and turned it over to developers and corporations for malls and office parks, or for transportation boondoggles. In one heinous case in Hampton, the city took private property for a pittance, and then sold it to a developer for millions while the original owner saw none of the extra money.

At one time, Virginia was a leader in protecting property rights and our Founders, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, ensured these rights in the Commonwealth’s constitution. However, in the last constitutional revision in the early 1970s, they were diminished. But now, with a reawakening of Founding Principles across Virginia and the nation, there is real momentum this year for true reform. We also think we are close in the sub-committee — so your voice matters! Please contact sub-sommittee members and express your desire that they vote for S.J.R. 307 to protect Virginia families' homes, farms and businesses!

Quote Of The Day

Today's QOD comes from this morning's meeting of the House Finance Committee. Committee members at first honored Delegate David Englin's (D-45, Alexandria) request to carry over his HB 275 for the year, a polite way of killing it. But the bill would repeal Virginia's Estate Tax exemption, which would amount to a massive tax increase. Seeing its ultimate demise, he used the out that since it is tied to pending federal legislation, it made sense to see the outcome of the Congressional bill first. But then committee Republicans had a change of heart and decided to have the bill only carried over to another meeting, all the better to get committee Democrats on record for or against a tax increase, especially one that specifically hurts families, small businesses and farmers. Commenting on the lengths the GOP members were taking to reverse course on a bill everyone knows is going about as far as a pro-life bill in the Senate, Delegate Albert Pollard (D-99, Lancaster) said:

I believe Delegate Englin only wanted a blind fold and a cigarette today. 

Eminent Domain Reform Bill In Sub-Committee Tomorrow Afternoon!

Okay, here's one that defines strange political bedfellows. The Family Foundation, the Farm Bureau, Tertium Quids and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, are backing a HB 562, patroned by House Democrat Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville). The bill provides just compensation to those who have land rendered useless because of an eminent domain taking. Right now, people are compensated only for the land taken, not additional land that the taking has rendered unusable. The bill is a complement to the landmark 2007 eminent domain reform law which limits government abuse of people's property rights.  In other words, condemners want to take the land they need but not pay for all of it. This bill will allow the addition of the unusable land to be factored into the price of the compensation for the eminent domain taking. Very fair. Very needed. (For those who think the 2007 law solved all our problems, see this about the Burkholder's — a Roanoke couple and its small business, via FromOnHigh.)

The bill comes before the House Courts of Justice Civil Sub-committee (click here for members)tomorrow afternoon. Contact the members and ask them to support property rights in Virginia. This bill will go a long way to restoring the rights of farmers, small businesses and home owners who work very hard for their property, only for government agencies to take it, or worse, play games with it with no fair compensation.

Following The Leader Off The Cliff

It's beyond lame, now . . . the automatic, reflexive response by Virginia's liberals that not only do we need more taxes but that we can afford them. Regarding the former, it's that the "government doesn't have enough money," as if the people it is sucking it from does. That's the problem we're facing now, right? People have less money. Too bad. Government elites want whatever it is you have left. Regarding the latter, whether it's Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) pitching higher gas taxes or now Governor Tim Kaine pleading  for higher unemployment insurance taxes on businesses, it's always something about Virginia's taxes aren't as high as a neighboring state's or the national average or states that begin with letters never chosen in the final round on Wheel of Fortune, therefore we can afford them. As if the fact that Virginia may happen to have a particular tax lower than North Carolina, Maryland or Utah makes a difference as to whether it's justifiable on the merits to raise it .

The latest in this nonsense is the aforementioned tax on businesses that funds unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. Last week, during its veto session, the General Assembly rejected the governor's attempt to accept federal "stimulus" money for extended unemployment insurance payments. The main argument against accepting the money was that, after the two year federal funding period, Virginia would have been obligated to continue the expenditures at a level necessitating a large tax increase on the people that create the jobs to begin with — businesses, including small businesses (often family owned) which create most jobs.

According to Governor Kaine, as reported in yesterday's Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Virginia employers pays the second lowest annual amount of unemployment taxes in the nation." By that logic, let's raise every tax in Virginia in which we are in the bottom 10 percentile. Or 20 percentile . . . or heck, make it the 50 percentile. Don't want to feel too fortunate, here, do we?

In effect, they're saying let's give up our advantage in order to tax more people because other states are doing it. But isn't the idea to create an economic environment to recruit new business to Virginia and to encourage start-ups? But these liberals are saying, "We're not taxing our residents enough. If other states can do it, so can we!" Worse, they believe it!

Turns out though, Virginia isn't such a low tax state after all, the perception perhaps perpetuated as a ready excuse to raise taxes (we're under taxed, so ante up more). According to Scott Hodge of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Virginia's overall tax burden is one of the nation's worst, rivaling notoriously high-taxing New York, New Jersey, California and, even, "Taxachussetts." (So much for our low-tax advantage.) Hodges spoke recently on Freedom & Prosperity Radio and you can hear the interview here with other interesting statistics.

Either way — whether they believe there is "room" to raise taxes compared to other states or they selectively pick and choose taxes that are lower here by comparison in order to raise a sense that an increase won't hurt — Virginia's tax-and-spenders insist on following other states rather than leading. Never mind that it's following them right off the economic cliff.