More Truth About State GovernmentMay 15, 2008
Yesterday, we posted our reasons to oppose Governor Tim Kaine's tax increase plan (and all tax increase plans) at the upcoming (June 23) Special Tax Session of the General Assembly. But there are other reasons to reject tax hikes for transportation (not to mention that the Governor Kaine apparently is not even considering our Lottery Ticket Increase plan even though others of high intellectual esteem are). But the primary reason is the new third rail of politics — education funding. During the General Assembly's regular session, the biannual "re-benchmarking" of the Standards of Quality resulted in a $1.1 billion increase in education spending in the new budget. (Click here to read our previous commentary on the educrat revolt to SOQ reform.) What does "re-benchmarking of SOQs" mean? A convoluted formula that automatically ensures that Virginia's public school establishment will receive at least a billion more dollars every two years, regardless of student outcomes or reductions in enrollment. That spending goes up no matter what. By continuing with this system, public education is assured of securing funds at the expense of other core budget items (public safety, transportation, etc.). Any legislator who is honest will tell you that there is absolutely no way to fund this annual education increase and the rest of state government without some type of massive, statewide tax increase.
So here we are. In fact, do you know how much spending increased on transportation in the recently passed new budget? Zero. Not a penny. Zilch.
Why? Because as long as the SOQ funding formula remains unchanged, every other area of state government, including transportation and public safety, will get short changed. (Of course, the Virginia Education Association was one of the first to publicly endorse the Governor's plan.)
This year, The Family Foundation supported a short-lived proposal to adjust the SOQ formula slightly, which would have in no way directly affected what is spent in the classroom. But such a change would have saved $200 million per year. That nearly half billion dollars every biennium would go a long way toward fixing the transportation "crisis" Governor Kaine alleges needs immediate action.
Because The Family Foundation has opposed increases in taxes over the years, we have gained a reputation as being "anti-tax." That is not the case. We simply want our state government to be more responsible in how it spends our money before it comes to working families asking for more.