Taxing Truths in Virginia
The Republican nominee for governor of my fair Commonwealth, Jerry Kilgore, recently put forth a few proposals that would help out our funding of transportation issues. Among them are ideas to create regional authorities that would be able to put tax items on local ballots.
At first blush, I don't think it's a bad idea at all. One of the big sources of tension in Virginia is the current system. Right now we have Northern Virginia gobbling up a great deal of tax dollars contributed by the rest of the Commonwealth. And while it's a valid argument that Northern Virginia contributes a decent share of the total take, it's still countered by pointing out that much of the rest of the state doesn't get the same bang for the buck that NoVA gets. Regional transportation authorities might address this better.
And then there's this little tidbit. I offer it to not only highlight editorial bias, but the gloss-over-the-facts stance of the Tim "No One In Virginia Supports Me" Kaine campaign (the Democratic nominee):
[Kilgore] said he would use extra revenue in the state's general fund from a growing economy to pay for transportation projects, an approach criticized by his likely Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.
Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said that "paying for transportation out of the general fund is ultimately going to put transportation dollars in competition with education dollars. What you'll end up with is money that would have gone to education going to transportation."
Well, there's a salient piece of information missing from this passage. Virginia, thanks to a one billion dollar tax increase pushed through by Mark Warner, has a nearly one billion dollar surplus. Yep. When Kilgore is saying he wants to use "extra revenue," he's talking about the surplus. For Kaine (or Skinner) to casually conflate that with education funding is, well, disingenuous. Education is already fully funded. So instead of giving surplus money to a fully funded program, Kilgore is talking about giving money to an entity in lieu of a tax increase that would otherwise be required to fund it. Such are the peculiarities of Commonwealth budgets. And bottom line, it makes sense to use surplus money instead of a tax increase...which is why Kaine is against it.
As for further down the line...if there are regional transportation authorities instead of a giant Full Service VDOT, then general fund dollars won't be in competition with transportation dollars, because the regional authorities are just that...regional. Besides, if the general fund dollars shifted to transportation are, as Kilgore described, "extra," then we're talking about surplus tax dollars, and the idea of them being "in competition" with programs already funded is rendered moot.
Also funny is Skinner's follow up statement:
Skinner added that the proposal to hold referendums on tax increases shows a lack of leadership. "When you ask the difficult question of how are you going to pay for this, Jerry always wants to put that off on somebody else," she said.
Hilarious. Left unsaid are the numerous referendums Mark Warner (current Virginia governor...and a Dem) put forth on just that thing. It was only when he was defeated each time did he decide to outright break his promises not to seek a tax increase and go to the Assembly.
Also funny is in how these guys seem to be all over the idea of Democracy...unless it has to do with tax increases. Then the idea of a direct vote becomes a lack of leadership. And with all due respect, Skinner...the idea of "who will pay for this" isn't that difficult of a question. One way or another...Commonwealth taxpayers are going to pay for it. Why is it so difficult for Kaine to have a notion that the people footing the bill should have a more direct say in whether the projects go forward or not?
Posted by John Tant at April 27, 2005 10:15 AM
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|# April 27th, 2005 10:32 AM james|
|virginia seems to be one of the more culturally diverse states with at least three distinct areas - northern virginia is very different from coastal virgina, (i.e. norfolk), and both are very different from interior virginia, i.e. roanoke. the only state that i can think of that has a greater number of disperate areas is florida (atlantic coast, panhandle, miami, interior/tampa, and gulf coast excluding tampa. one could even argue that jacksonville is a different area, but i'd group them in with panhandle). because of this, virginia seems uniquely suited for regional authorities, like tax and transportation.
ive heard that people in europe often wonder how the US manages to hold together a nation of 300 million that spans a land mass as big as all of europe herself - the answer, of course, is "federalism." as states become larger and more economically diverse it may be that regional authorities built upon the federalist model become increasingly prevalent.