special tax session

What They're Saying About Us

If you haven't checked our Online Newsroom recently, give it a click. We continue to update it as we get mentions on the blogosphere and elsewhere for our observations and comments on the Virginia political and policy fronts, as well as on American culture and traditional values in general. We've been getting hits from all sorts of places, even in the UK. However, it's the ones from our blogging peers close to home that give us the most pride (even if they are negative; it means they are paying attention to us). So, yesterday, we were excited to see Tertium Quids recognize our reporting and observational comment on the possible machinations and outcomes of the ongoing (and possibly fast concluding) Special Tax Session. Compliments from highly thought of original thinkers are especially meaningful. 

One reason people pay attention to us is because those of you who share our principles of traditional family values, cultural standards and limited constitutional government, have shown your ability to affect positive change in Virginia. We continue to continue look for ways to make that change possible through grassroots activism, including online activism.

So please note our Action Center. We created it, updated it and recently improved it yet more. We have divided it into two sections. One provides links to get more involved with The Family Foundation of Virginia — from joining the grassroots, to your local editorial page for a letter-to-the-editor and other links for volunteer activism to help influence issues in Virginia.

There's also a contact section where, with one click, you can contact Virginia's highest officeholders: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, House Speaker, Senate Majority Leader, the leaders of both parties in both chambers and many more. There are also links to the entire membership of both party caucuses in both chambers — even the independents — as well as links to track bills, a page to look up and contact your own delegate and senator, and many other tools to stay involved in your Virginia government and public policy.

We hope to make staying involved as easy as possible so that you stay vigilant. In these days of Special Tax Sessions and more government activism it will take all of us — online and in person — to secure traditional family values and limited constitutional government.

Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Henry And The Sovereignty Of The People

We are in a great location, if not a great space, in downtown Richmond, less than a block from perhaps Virginia's most enduring landmark, its Jefferson designed capitol; and perhaps a mile yonder east in Church Hill, St. John's Church, identified with another Revolutionary hero, Patrick Henry, who also knew well the grounds of Shockoe Hill. When people think of Richmond history, they think Civil War (or War Between The States). It's a shame in that it obscures the city's Revolution-era history.

During this fast approaching Independence Day weekend it is easy to ponder our ancestor Virginians' lives and for all they stood. Doing such, I ran across a quote from Henry that pairs nicely with a Jeffersonian quote with which I was already familiar.

Both men were key instruments in the Revolution: Jefferson the Pen, Henry the Tongue. They fought for a democratic republic, free from the chosen few to lead, but open to all — that is to say, open to all. Not just open for all to seek public office, but open to all to participate; and not only to participate, but to know what the people's government was doing, lest it no longer stay the people's government.

So it is on this occasion that we again call on the successors to Jefferson's and Henry's General Assembly to consider ways to further open our government: In particular, through the use of modern technology, making available the Virginia budget online via a Google-like, easy-to-use search engine. (What better way to honor Mr. Jefferson, who was no slouch inventor himself and who was keen to the latest technology of his day?) As the General Assembly reconvenes to consider what they might take from us during this ongoing Special Tax Session, shouldn't we be able to easily learn how, what, when and with whom they our spending our money?

Said the first governor of the commonwealth, Mr. Henry:

The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.

Said the author of the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Jefferson:

Information is the currency of democracy.

Before the General Assembly runs off with what remains of our financial currency, remind them we have every right — rather, it is their responsibility — to keep the operations of the people's government open and free to easy examination. To be sure, that's what this weekend commemorates, for if the people's sovereignty is subjugated to the "rulers" who are few, we become less free; less the sovereign over the elected that our Revolution guaranteed, and more the subjects to new, modern-day monarchs.

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.

Strategery?

Amidst all the rhetoric flying around Richmond today as General Assembly committees began working on actual bills is the reality that this Special Tax Session is much more a exercise in politics than in policy. But that has likely been Governor Tim Kaine's strategy all along.

First, it is clear that Kaine's tax increase plan is dead in the water. He has even been unable to get a patron for his bill in the Democrat controlled Senate. Republicans are slamming him for not having any consensus on a plan before bringing the General Assembly back into town. Of course, the governor knew that nothing was going to pass this week. Look for him to use this and slam Republicans for the next year and a half for blocking a fix for transportation.

Republicans, on the other hand, still don't seem to have a consensus either. While they are opposed to Kaine's plan, there isn't a single Republican plan that a majority seems to support. The House strategy is to do as little as possible until the Senate acts, if at all, on Kaine's plan. Why bring it up if the governor can't even get it through the body controlled by his own party? They are hopeful that they can get some potential statewide candidates on record supporting tax increases by other means. Their internal polls show absolutely no support for tax increases, so they are happy to ride it out.

But, as one Senate Republican told me, "At least that's their strategy today. Who knows what it'll be tomorrow."

Some good news — yet another attempt to raise revenue by expanding gambling in Virginia died in a Senate committee today. 

Quote (And Statistic) Of The Day

There were a lot of things said today as The Special Tax Session opened for business. However, since I heard this one in person, this is what I have chosen. It stands on it's own. From Ben Marchi, Virginia director of Americans For Properity, at an AFP luncheon, on Governor Tim Kaine's staff blocking access to gallery seats previously reserved for AFP members who arrived from all corners of the commonwealth for his speech to the joint session convened earlier this afternoon:

 "He's afraid of the tax payers."

Apparently, His Excellency saw the big crowd that rallied this morning in Capitol Square against his $1 billion tax plan and wanted them to "stay off" the capitol (get it?). Marchi closed the luncheon with a sobering statistic:

"It took Virginia 390 years to get to a $34 billion budget. It took only 10 years to more than double it."

Funny how we never hear the guvna quote that in all his statistics, factoids and quips.

 

 

Just One Question

Hours away, now, from the much hyped Special Tax Session. So, before it begins, just one question:

Before we go taxing hard-working families struggling with high gas and food prices and economic uncertainty, before the government requires us to cut our family budgets because it won't prioritize its own budget (where spending has increased 50 percent in five years), shouldn't Governor Kaine (contact here) and the General Assembly (contact here) first spend the $400 million from last year's transportation plan that wasn't repealed or declared unconstitutional?

Just askin' is all.

Let The Tax Games Begin!

The start of the Special Tax Session of the General Assembly begins in hours. Enjoy the fun. We'll chronicle it here, so please check back as developments warrant. It all gets started in the morning with what should be a blast: Americans For Prosperity is hosting an anti-tax rally at the bell tower in Capitol Square. Attorney General Bob McDonnell will be one of the speakers. People from all over the state are expected, so if you can swing it, come on by. Your friendly admin will be there, so take a chance and try to pick me out. I'd love to meet any and all.

The rally includes free lunch. Get it? Governor Tim Kaine has been telling voters at his town hall meetings that there's no free lunch — when he's not telling them to stay off the roads if they don't agree with his $1 billion tax increase — even though we've been paying for a lot of government we don't want and never asked for (pre-K, anyone?).

So, remember: Even if you can't make the rally tomorrow, it is important you remind your delegates and senators and the governor himself of what you think about any and all ideas that require you to involuntarily part with your family's hard-earned money for more government waste and inefficiency. After all, the pro-taxers and their big business and developer lobby allies will be pressing hard to separate you from it, so you need to do your part. It may sound like an game, but in an Olympic year, sports analogies may be apt. Defeating these folks will take an Olympian effort.

One last thought: When the pro-taxers claim, as Governor Kaine did on his last "Ask The Governor" call-in show on WRVA-1140/AM, that Virginia is one of the lowest tax states in the union (although debatable because of all the recent tax increases), so we need to pay more, they are equating our tax bills with a poor performance indicator, such as low educational test scores — as if our tax rate is something we need to get up to the national average. No, no! Repeat after me, mistah guvna: Low tax, good; high tax bad; me no rede an rite bad; me read and write good.

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

There are a lot of proposed ideas for the upcoming Special Tax Session of the General Assembly. Here are a few that have been floated. Which one will prevail? Or will nothing at all happen? How should Virginia tackle its transportation problems? Let us know what you think and post your ideas on this thread after you vote. Voting ends June 25.

Special Tax Session Fast Approaching

Just four years ago, Virginians were asked to pay for a massive tax increase, the brainchild of former Governor and current Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Mark Warner and former Virginia Senator and lifelong RINO John Chichester. (Visit tomorrow for the untold background on this, the largest tax increase in Virginia history.) As a result, billions more dollars from working families in Virginia have poured into the coffers in Richmond. In the three state budgets since, state government has spent nearly $100 billion of your money. The result? They're back for more. Regardless of Governor Tim Kaine's (contact him here) rhetoric about working families in Virginia expecting a "free lunch" for not wanting to send more of their hard earned money to Richmond, the fact remains that there is plenty of revenue in Richmond to pay for core government services. 

But for the politicians, there just isn't enough money to pay for those services and everything else they want. There never will be enough for their voracious spending appetites, all while Virginia taxpayers get nothing close to a free lunch — and it is incredibly arrogant for the governor to suggest that we are.

This Monday, June 23, the General Assembly will meet at the capitol for what we've dubbed the "Special Tax Session" because, despite the rhetoric about a "transportation crisis," there are no guarantees that revenue from any new taxes will go solely to transportation. Any new tax money will go into the general fund and be spent any way Virginia's political elite wants it to be spent. It's telling that one of the biggest supporters of the tax increase is the Virginia Education Association. Exactly what interest should the teachers union have in a tax increase for "transportation"? Their excitement clearly indicates they've been given a free run through the pork trough if the tax increase passes.

The lack of a guarantee that transportation will become a priority is just one of the many reasons that the General Assembly should reject the call for tax hikes. See our interview with Delegate Mark Cole (R-88, Fredericksburg) and his response about the raid on the Transportation Trust Fund. The fact that transportation spending makes up just 13 percent of the budget, while education makes up 40 percent and social services 30 percent, indicates that transportation never really has been the priority it should. To complain about a "crisis" now is disingenuous. If there is a crisis, it's a crisis in leadership, not of citizenship. What leader, beside Jimmy Carter, criticizes his constituents?

But most importantly, to ask Virginia's working families to pay even more in taxes when they are facing extraordinary and ever-rising gas and food prices, a collapsed housing market, job insecurity and a sluggish economy, is the unrestrained arrogance of elitism, of someone out of touch with, perhaps, "bitter" people. Your elected officials — especially your delegate and senator — must not feel this lack of restraint the governor apparently feels. Send a clear message to your representatives that you oppose higher taxes and fees.

Remember: The politicians will raise your taxes if they think you don't care, because they can sell it to you as something necessary, as in transportation, then spend it any way they choose. So you must let them know you are paying attention. Click here and send an e-mail to your delegate and senator and urge them to oppose higher taxes. Then forward this link to your friends and family so they can make their voices heard as well.

The Summer Return Of The Quote Of The Day

We know the General Assembly is not in session and the Special Tax Session has yet to convene. But we couldn't resist bringing back our highly popular Quote Of The Day feature when we read this one. From Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Shenandoah), one of our favorites for his speak-his-mind approach, in yesterday's Washington Post, on Governor Tim Kaine's plan to accelerate the restoration of voting rights to convicted felons  in cooperation with the ACLU, NAACP and other liberal groups  in time for November's election (click here for article):

I don't know a lot of young Republicans who end up being felons. Clearly the groups that are soliciting these felons to get their rights restored are predisposed to be in support of Obama, and I am sure this registration effort is designed to help their candidate.