NOVA-Envy: Richmond-Area "Planners" Show Tone Deafness, Approve NOVA-Style Transportation Tax Authority!Sep. 04, 2008
For the nearly 1 million people who live in the city of Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover, the alarm has sounded. Apparently, the business elites and their politician and government bureaucrat proxies have a bit of NOVA-envy. A panel of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission has approved the Central Virginia Regional Transportation Authority. However, given the scope of taxes it would be empowered to levy, it is grossly misnamed. We'll call it the Tax Authority. It would be able, according to today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, to raise in taxes "more than $108 million . . . annually to finance road-building and other projects." (Not to mention the inevitable staff, offices, travel to conferences and other government extravagance.) It will have the power to take your money
"from seven new or increased taxes or fees, including a 2 percent increase in the gas tax, a 40-cent increase in the grantor's tax on real-estate transactions and a 1 percent first-time vehicle registration fee." (Emphasis added.)
The Richmond area is a growing, dynamic area for sure, home to about 13 Fortune 1000 corporate headquarters, seven universities and colleges, and Mr. Jefferson's capitol, among many other notable institutions that help it thrive. But who here is complaining about traffic? Metro Richmond is not NOVA, nor is it a wannabe. It isn't even Hampton Roads (hold your jokes until after class). At least not its citizens. Maybe the politicians have NOVA-envy. However, there's no clamor to emulate the megapolitan Northern Virginia's failed idea of burdening hard-working families, with already stretched budgets, with another layer of government and another layer of taxers and spenders waiting to dip their hands into our bank accounts. Not when local spending is as wasteful as state spending (read this and this and this and this — and that's just for starters and only for Richmond City). (Don't laugh if you live in Goochland, New Kent, Powhatan or any of the other 16 localities in the planning district — you may be next. Your politicians will be allowed to petition their way into this Tax Authority, too.)
How tone deaf can these bureaucrats and politicians be? Are they that beholden to big business to do their bidding even now, when these authorities have been voted down in other regions? When these same fees are so unpopular, even Governor Tim Kaine couldn't bully them through this summer's Special Tax Session? When the Supreme Court ruled another version of them unconstitutional — unanimously? Especially in such slow economic times? Do they not know the three taxes listed above are extra burdens on the three most troubling sectors of the economy? Is big business that desperate to make us taxpayers subsidize roads for their malls, office parks and residential areas?
As of now, this scheme isn't close to finalization. First, each governing body of the member jurisdictions must approve it, although some of the geniuses who created it are on those bodies. Then the General Assembly must approve it and the governor sign it.
The typical RINO suspects are behind the deal. One is Hanover County Supervisor John Gordon. Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett has about as much patience for your money as Dracula has for blood — he drafted the plan. (He also pushed a referendum for a $20 million meals tax in 2005 that was defeated.) What remains to be seen is whether Senator John Watkins (R-10, Powhatan) and Delegate Frank Hall (D-69, Richmond) will bring back their bills in the 2009 General Assembly session allowing the creation of the Tax Authority. They were tabled last session because the local governments had not studied them enough. Look what a little time has done.
You can contact Delegate Hall or Senator Watkins by clicking on their names at the links above. In the meantime, if you live in Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico or Hanover, click on the link to look-up your councilman or supervisor and tell them despite their inferiority complex, you have no NOVA-envy.
Job For A Day (Or, What I'd Like To Ask The Governor)Jul. 07, 2008
We all have those moments when we wish we could be a type of person or hold a certain job for a day for a very specific reason. For me, it's to be cop just to pull over the people who insist on making me hear their abominable taste in so-called music, even though my windows are up and I have on my own music. But with the Special Tax Session about to reconvene, I have come to wish to be a reporter for a day, with a one on one interview with the governor. These are some of the questions I'd ask him regarding his billion-dollar tax increase plan: The first one is a repeat:
1. Before the government requires us to cut our own family budgets, why don't you first spend the $400 million already appropriated from last year's transportation bill that wasn't repealed?
2. How did it happen that the budget more than doubled over the last 10 years, seven of which while you were in statewide office, despite the relatively small increase in inflation and population growth?
3. How many families' budgets more than doubled during these same past 10 years?
4. If transportation is such a crisis, why haven't you prioritized spending your three years as governor, taking the last one billion dollars out of the $78 billion in your two-year budget and putting that toward transportation?
5. You admitted we are in a slow economy now and face uncertainty with high food and gas prices and problems in the mortgage industry. So how is reducing the disposable income of individual Virginians and families through tax increases going to help them get by?
6. If transportation funding is such a priority, why won't you agree to support a transportation fund lock box to guarantee all taxes for transportation only get spent on transportation and not on non-related programs?
7. You campaigned with everything you had to flip the Virginia Senate to Democrat control. Why can't you find a Democrat Senator to patron your billion-dollar tax increase package?
6. With real estate prices dropping and people selling their homes short — for less than what they owe — how is raising the grantor's tax good for the depressed real estate market (which, when booming, was a significant reason for Virginia budget surplusses)?
7. Why not use money from future profits at the Port of Virginia instead of raising taxes?
8. Is it arrogant to think that while we have to do with much less, the government, with a $78 billion budget, must do with more — at our expense?
And finally . . . when you campaigned for governor, didn't you say you were "not in for a tax increase"?
We'll see if anyone in the mainstream media will ask any of these questions, but we're not holding our breath. In the meantime, for the fun of it, let us know here what you would ask Governor Kaine and maybe we'll get it to him somehow — or click here to contact him and ask him directly, and let us know what canned response you get.