How To Jump On And Off A Bandwagon, And On Again, Without Getting HurtFeb 12, 2008
Taxpayers won a major victory last week in the House of Delegates when HB 1318, patroned by Delegates John O'Bannon (R-73, Henrico), Ben Cline (R-24, Amherst) and Jimmie Massie (R-72, Henrico) passed by a 54-43 near party-line vote on its second read. On the pro-forma third read — amazingly — everyone jumped on the bandwagon and it passed 99-0. Nothing like telling your constituents you are for tax relief, even if you're not serious about it. The bill would return any surplus of $50 million or more to the taxpayers. The form of the relief would be up to the General Assembly — it could be a rebate check or a reduction in a tax or tax rate. If a given year's surplus is less than $50 million, that money would stay in a reserve fund, and could not be touched for any purpose, until a subsequent year's surplus makes the total more than $50 million. Currently, the Virginia government, which several national magazines have named "The Best Managed State," or "Best State To Do Business," takes any surplus in a given year and rolls it over to the following year's budget to spend on new or expanded projects and programs not previously budgeted. Doesn't sound like good management, does it? Much less, ethical.
It is akin to a company that charges you $37 for a service. You pay it $40. Instead of giving you your change, the company takes your money and spends it for its own benefit. Virginia's government last year cost $37 billion. Even though we are not running a surplus this year, from 2004-2006 we did, and never saw a penny back. Instead, it spent the record surpluses on more government and raised our taxes a record amount to boot! It's time for Virginia government to think of its expenses as a cost for a service (which it is, i.e., education, police, etc.) and when we pay more than it says the service is going to cost (i.e., the budget), it should give us back our change.
Passage of the bill itself was another stunning reversal; at least a few bills this year have made it out of the House when they did not even make it out of sub-committee last year. (HB 121 cleared the House earlier in session and soon will go to the Senate Education and Health Sub-committee on Health Care and HB 1453 passed second read yesterday.) Perhaps it is the majority House Republicans finally distinguishing themselves from Democrats. Whatever the reason, it was interesting that although this bill had not one dissenting vote in sub-committee or committee, eight of those Democrats voted against it on the House floor on second read, when floor amendments and other parliamentary procedures are debated on a bill.
The bill was on the uncontested calendar (for non-controversial bills, which a unanimously approved bill from committee is considered) but was pulled out of the block by Minority Leader Ward Armstrong (D-10, Martinsville) for debate. He offered his own amendment to return the surplus only to an undefined "low- and middle-income taxpayers." It was defeated 54-43 with Delegate Chris Jones (R-76, Suffolk) the only member of either party voting with the opposite side. The version brought to the floor by Delegate O'Bannon then was passed with every delegate voting exactly the same (54-43). On the bill's third read the next day, everyone got religion again, thus its 99-0 vote. The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee, which in years past, under its now-retired chairman, rarely saw good reason for tax relief. We will see how the new chairman, Senator Charles Colgan (D-29, Manassas) and the 8-7 Democrat majority (and RINO members) treat this commonsense taxpayer relief bill. Perhaps some nudging by the public would help.
Read our previous posts about this bill's exciting legislative journey thus far at these links: