taxpayers

Urge Governor McDonnell To Ban Funding For Planned Parenthood, Taxpayer Funded Abortion, Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Governor Bob McDonnell currently is reviewing the state budget passed by the General Assembly during its recent session. He has the opportunity to send amendments to the General Assembly to bring the budget in line with his goals, objectives and values. In doing so, he can send to the legislature budget amendments that defund Planned Parenthood, elective abortions and failed embryonic stem cell research. The legislature, in turn, will vote on any amendments Governor McDonnell sends it during its veto session on Wednesday, April 21. In today’s financial climate, it is even more essential that these publicly unsupported expenditures causing the destruction of human life not be financially backed by a fiscally failing government. If financial support is to be handed out from Richmond for anything, there are numerous life supporting and worthy causes that come to mind that deserve and truly need support. Here's some background on the budget language that we hope Governor McDonnell sends the General Assembly:

Banning Planned Parenthood Funding: This amendment prohibits taxpayer funding of the radical pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood. In its last fiscal report, Planned Parenthood Federation of America reported a budget of more than $1 billion. During this decade, Virginia taxpayers have sent nearly $500,000 to Planned Parenthood, one of the most politically partisan organizations in our nation. They do not need your hard-earned tax dollars. By the way, Planned Parenthood is responsible for nearly a quarter of the abortions that take place in our nation.

Banning Funding for Elective Abortions: Incredibly in 2006 and 2007, Virginia tax dollars directly funded 322 elective abortions. The federal government requires states to subsidize abortions only when a Medicaid-eligible woman’s life is at risk or in the cases of rape and incest. In Virginia, we fund elective low-income abortions — a standard beyond what is required by the federal government. Regardless of their position on abortion, a vast majority of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.

Banning Funding for Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Let’s be honest, embryonic stem cell research has failed, while adult stem cell research has produced dozens of treatments and cures. Virginia has a clear choice: fund what works or fund failed research to make a political point. According to a recent article in Investor's Business Daily, California, the most severely racked state in the nation, has learned some difficult lessons:

Five years after a budget-busting $3 billion was allocated to embryonic stem cell research, there have been no cures, no therapies and little progress. So supporters are embracing research they once opposed (adult stem cell research).

With all this in mind, we need your action to redirect Virginia in a positive direction on these important public policy issues. They are so important, in fact, that Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham asked candidate McDonnell about them in October on her nationally syndicated radio talk show. He promised then to ban funding for Planned Parenthood and taxpayer funded elective abortions. (Planned Parenthood even attacked him for the pledge.) Hear his pledge for yourself, right here:

 

Now, please contact Governor McDonnell immediately and urge him to keep his word and send the General Assembly budget amendments prohibiting taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and elective abortions, as ewll as embryonic stem cell research.

Contact him by phone at 804-786-2211 or click here to e-mail him.

Stat Of The Day (It Should Send The Educrats Running For Cover)

House Majority Whip and Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Delegate Kirk Cox (R-66, Colonial Heights) appeared on Richmond's Morning News with Jimmy Barrett this morning on WRVA-AM, with the Lee Brothers substituting for Barrett. Most of their questions focused on the budget and some of the myths promulgated by the left and certain media types. Delegate Cox was refreshingly candid and said he was tired of the whine coming from certain local government officials, especially when it comes to education funding. Thus, the Stat of the Day:

In Virginia, since 2000, while student enrollment in Virginia K-12 public schools has grown by 7.2 percent, state spending on same has increased 60 percent!

Okay. You know me by now. I can't stop there. Get this:

Two-thirds of the Virginia budget goes to K-12 public education and health and human services.

So much for the liberal charge about those mean conservatives in the House of Delegates who cut, cut, cut education whenever they can. The fact that Virginia has cut public education spending is a myth, plain and simple. There's about as much truth to the fact that public education funding has been cut as there was that we were in a deficit when Mark Warner shoved through the largest tax increase in Virginia history.

But the education establishment (the educrats) use every opportunity to kick, scream and cry about a lack of funding to block any type of reform possible. Worse, they try to block discussion of reform with General Assembly lobbyists paid for by taxpayers and teachers' dues. Thus, Virginia's worst-in-the-country-charter-school-law, which has been on the books more than a decade and resulted in a meager three charter schools (with a fourth on the way).

Now, after eight years, there's a new team in charge. Hopefully, that will be the catalyst for the truth finally to get equal billing with the myths — and for something positive to get done.

Click Here To Listen To The Entire Interview With Delegate Kirk Cox (5:45)

Planned Parenthood Attacks Bob McDonnell

At our Gala Monday evening, the loudest applause line of Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb's address was when she said that pro-family Virginians expect that the next governor of Virginia to submit a budget that ends taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood. In a radio interview the next day on the Laura Ingraham Show, Republican candidate for governor Bob McDonnell stated that he would do just that. Now, Planned Parenthood is going berserk over McDonnell’s comments, despite the fact that The Washington Post today claims that Planned Parenthood didn’t receive any taxpayer money in this year’s budget. For several years The Family Foundation has worked with other pro-life organizations to end the taxpayer subsidizing of Planned Parenthood, often finding it difficult to uncover how much money they receive or through what agency or program.

While Planned Parenthood alleges that the money they receive is used for "women’s health care," the fact is that this is a $1 billion a year organization that performs more than one-quarter of all abortions in the nation, with roughly one-third of its income coming from taxpayers.

Oddly, for an organization that claims to be about "health care," it is run by a hard-core partisan Democrat, Cecile Richards, the daughter of former Texas Governor Ann Richards and former chief of staff to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The truth is, it is nothing more than a partisan organization that uses its taxpayer funding to bludgeon pro-life candidates across the country and to promote abortion on demand. This year, Planned Parenthood endorsed McDonnell’s opponent, Creigh Deeds, who supports taxpayer funding of that organization. in fact, Planned Parenthood endorsed all three Democrat statewide candidates.

The fact is that, regardless of their position on abortion, most Virginians do not like the idea of their tax dollars paying for abortions and, by extension, organizations that perform them. Planned Parenthood has plenty of its own money; it doesn’t need any from the taxpayers.

Family Foundation's 2009 Legislative Agenda: Budget Transparency

Yesterday, we posted information about our efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and abortion in Virginia, through grants it receives through the state budget. One of the challenges we face is actually finding the expenditures. You see, there isn't a line item in the budget that says "Planned Parenthood." The money is distributed by local health clinics from money appropriated to the Department of Health. At least the money we know about. An example of the difficulty in finding the truth came just last year when we sent Freedom of Information Act letters to every school board in Virginia concerning contracts with Planned Parenthood. The City of Richmond schools responded that they had no contract with Planned Parenthood but, just days later, we learned from Planned Parenthood that they were holding workshops in Richmond City Schools. Who is paying for this has yet to be determined, but we're working on it.

Several years ago The Family Foundation introduced legislation that was an attempt at making state budget expenditures more available to citizens. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Walter Stosch (R-12, Glen Allen), resulted in Commonwealth Datapoint (click here), a Web site where one can look through every check written by the state.

But plan on spending a lot of time, because while everything is there, it is about as user-friendly as Windows Vista. 

Last year, Senators Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Centerville) and Chap Petersen (D-34, Fairfax) and Delegate Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) introduced legislation that would make the budget Web site more user-friendly, including a Google-like search engine. That legislation was killed in committe in both the House and Senate. Senator Edd Houck (D-17, Spotsylvania), a member of the Finance Committee, was particularly offended by the idea that taxpayers should have the right to hold him accountable for budget decisions. Similar legislation will be introduced again this year by those same legislators.

As the Commonwealth now deals with a spending surplus of at least $4 billion, finding where we can save money is extraordinarily important.  Most legislators will tell you that there isn't much waste in state government or any more "trimming of the edges" that can be done. While it would be great to take their word for it, the fact that we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on Planned Parenthood gives us doubt.

The way to righting this large ship of state begins here: It cannot be done without knowing exactly where and how government spends our hard-earned money; it cannot be done if we continue to sit in darkness while extreme organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, are provided with taxpayer bailouts.

In short, online budget transparency is a just concept of open and good government; of sunshine; of the people having oversight of their government, as the Founders intended. This year's legislative battle will be one of the bureaucrats and politicians who put power (via the purse) over the people's right to know.

Who will win? Rather, who has the will to win?

Reworking A Bad Plan Can Make It Worse (Or, The Son Of 3202 Rises)

The Special Tax Session of the General Assembly resumes tomorrow and anything can happen. Some capitol insiders are predicting the session could end by the end of the day, with nothing done. That would be good. Some think the House could pass some watered down Senate tax increase, send it back to Senate Majority Leader Dick "The People Will Pay" Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) and his crowd down the hall, who will change it and take it to a conference committee, which would be dangerous enough. But others think that if anything gets out of the House, Senate Dems will pass it immediately and let Governor Tim Kaine amend it to include all the extra taxes his heart desires (we'd say that would be Christmas in July for the liberals, except many don't believe . . . oh, never mind) and send it back for an up or down vote. If that version passes, it would be a Kaine victory at the expense (literally) of the public; a taxpayer loss. If nothing happens, believe your bottom dollar (that may be all you have left right now) that the governor and the Dems will demonize conservatives as not wanting to address the transportation "crisis." 

They better be careful for what they ask. It may be anecdotal, but evidence is the public, across all lines, doesn't seem to have much of an appetite for tax increases when gas is at $4.00 a gallon and all the ripple effect cost increases it is causing. Senator Saslaw during the regular session was fond of saying that his gas tax increase would cost the equivalent of one Big Mac meal per year. Actually, it was closer to a Ruth Chris dinner, but regardless, most families don't even have a Big Mac to cut back right now.

Not only that, but his proposal in the winter was a 5-cent increase over five years. Now, I guess because he wants us to cut back on apple turnovers, too, his bill would increase the gas tax by six cents over six years (SB 6009). That's a 35-percent increase. It doesn't appear as if this will pass. The House Republican leadership let it come to the floor in a procedural move in committee to force House Dems to vote on recordin anticipation of next year's House elections. The money is on many House Dems getting cold feet on this one.

However (there's always a "however"), the House GOP doesn't want to get left out of the game. They want to be sure no one can claim they have no ideas themselves, so instead of no ideas they are proposing old and bad ideas. They want to "fix" the aspect of last year's transportation package (HB 3202) that the Virginia Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. This new package, HB 6055, patroned by Delegate Phil Hamilton (R-93, Newport News) is more complex, but is also harmful to taxpayers and the economy. Its main feature is to give local governments in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia taxing authority in certain areas so as to spend it themselves for transportation, rather than the original, and unconstitutional, law that let unelected boards tax and spend. (To be fair, the original bill passed by the House in 2007 was to give local governments the authority; the governor amended it to give it to the unelected boards, and bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly concurred.)

While many legislators may make the political calculation that by "simply fixing" last year's plan (by voting for HB 6055) Virginians won't consider it a vote to raise taxes, they may be calculating wrong. People want the General Assembly to make hard decisions instead of asking for more money from families — again. Smart citizens know fixing a bad plan often makes it still worse. 

Among the various taxes in HB 6055 is one particularly heinous tax — a $.40 per $100 increase in the "grantor's tax" in Northern Virginia. This is a tax home sellers pay at closing. As home sales continue to plummet, and some of those sales are "short" (sold for less than what is owed on it), such a tax is reckless. 

Earlier this month, while detailing the state's current financial picture, Secretary of Finance Jody Wagner revealed a devastating downward trend in home sales to the House Appropriations Committee. At the time, several Republicans appropriately drilled Secretary Wagner regarding Governor Kaine's transportation proposal that included a grantor's tax. It would be peculiar for those same legislators to agree to one now, but this is the General Assembly, after all. Regardless of whether the tax is introduced by Democrats or Republicans, the governor, the Senate or the House, the effect on the housing industry is the same — it will ensure a housing recession.

HB 6055 also includes a $20 increase in the car inspection fee in Hampton Roads, an extra $100 fee on those who receive their first drivers license (in N.Va.), a hotel tax (N.Va.) and a rental car tax (in both areas), among others. Americans For Tax Reform mailed each legislator who signed its No Tax Pledge that a vote to pass the tax-increasing buck to localities is still a tax increase and violates the pledge.

Four years ago, then-Governor Mark Warner cited education, health and public safety to pass the largest tax hike in the Commonwealth's history. Apparently, in 2004, transportation was no longer the "crisis" Warner had said it was in 2002 when he tried unsuccessfully to pass regional sales tax hikes for transportation via referenda in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia. Now, Governor Kaine and some allies in the legislature have decided to dust off the transportation "crisis" to raise taxes. This action comes only a few months after they proposed raiding the Transportation Trust Fund for non-transportation expenditures.

Some of the same lawmakers who opposed a constitutional amendment restricting the Transportation Trust Fund to transportation-only spending now support a tax hike.  Even Governor Kaine, prior to his election, endorsed a "lock-box" to secure transportation funds from general fund spending and tax increases. Three years later, he has done nothing to support efforts to secure one. So what we're left with is a thinly veiled attempt to raise taxes on Virginia's families simply to raise money, not specifically for transportation. 

Besides that, it appears HB 6055 is more flexible than a Russian gymnast. Specific projects are to be carried out "in consultation with members of the General Assembly" — whatever that might mean. Sadly, the level of linguistic complexity required to raise some taxes in some areas, that affect only some people in order to fix some transportation needs, all while appearing as if no taxes are being raised, makes for a legislative nightmare.     

The bottom line is that for over a decade the General Assembly has bowed to the powerful education union and funded public education incorrectly, refused to reduce spending in pet projects, and counted on Virginians to pony up under the threat of disaster. If this mentality doesn't change now, in difficult economic times, what will it be like in good times? Believe me, it will be Bonnie and Clyde all over again, with a new crisis (health care or Medicare, perhaps?) and guess who they think is the bank?

The good news is that this can be stopped. Many legislators are being pressured by big-time lobbyists of big businesses who will benefit from government spending, from the teachers union which wants to ensure their portion of the pie isn't touched, and other special interest groups. But when enough concerned voters let their senators and delegates know enough is enough, it gives them the courage to resist the special interest pressures (click here to contact them). Instead of raising taxes, it is time for them to get some new ideas, such as comprehensive spending and budget reform.

Tax Increases For The Rich

As the countdown to the Special Tax Session of the General Assembly begins (it starts two weeks from today) we take notice of a post from yesterday at Tertium Quids about one of the chief lobbying/special interest groups supporting massive tax increases. Click here to read it. Basically, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce is pushing for tax increases (as noted in an op-ed Tertium Quids cites). However, as blogger Norman Leahy reminds us, the Chamber fought like crazy four years ago an attempt to close certain tax loopholes that benefited its members. Here's an excerpt:

Let's just accept these contentions as true. If we really, honestly, need a broad revenue base to address the unmet needs of paving contractors across the state and "everyone should share in paying for them" then the first thing the legislature needs to do is look closely at the tax code and close the various and sundry loopholes that the Chamber and its allies have carved out over the years.In other words, if the Chamber wants more taxes fine. Let's make sure all of their members pay them, too.

It also illustrates how those opposing tax increases have failed to properly frame the issue, at least as it concerns the business community.

It may sound populist, but it is the truth: Certain elements of the business community want higher taxes because it serves as a government subsidy that lines their pockets. All of a sudden the shopping centers, condos and office complexes they own or plan to develop, with new roads built nearby with massive new taxes, become more affordable to build and profitable to keep. It is someone else paving the way (literally) for their projects' success by decreasing their own investment costs by shifting those costs to taxpayers. When the government pays for projects to benefit a private project it's called a subsidy — or a transfer of wealth. By any standard these proposed tax increases qualify as money would be transferred from families and individuals to those who have commercial interests from which to make personal gain.

Call it corporate welfare, call it anything you want. It is still government extracting money from private citizens to help certain businesses pay for projects that benefit their bottom line. Their hypocricy in preserving their own tax breaks proves it. 

Update: Remaining Cedar Waxwings Released Back To Nature!

According the the May 26 Richmond Times-Dispatch, the remaining seven of several saved cedar waxwings — so cruelly ensnared by the glue traps set for pigeons atop the General Assembly Building (and commented upon here) — were released back to nature recently at Powhatan United Methodist Church. The release was part of the Area Rehabbers Klub education program. Oh, that some restoration of freedom be the fate of us taxpayers come June.