Governor Tim Kaine surprised absolutely no one when he rolled out his transportation — er, make that tax — plan Monday. It includes nearly $1 billion tax and fee increases under the guise of fixing transportation for what he and the media mistakenly call a transportation special session of the General Assembly to begin June 23. Truth in reporting requires us to call it a Special Tax Session.
Governor Kaine’s plan doesn’ leave out much. It increases the sales tax in Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia from 5 to 6 percent, something rejected by voters in those regions in 2002. Governor Kaine also would have us pay more for cars by increasing from 3 to 4 percent the motor-vehicle titling tax as well as another $10 increase in the cost to register our vehicles. Governor Kaine doesn’t stop there: He also proposes an increase in the grantor’s, or property seller’s tax, of 10 cents per $100, just as the real estate market is tanking. Detect a theme here?
How anyone can fathom adding a tax to house sales right now, on top of the fee for mortgage and refinance originations as part of former Democrat Governor Mark Warner’s 2004 record tax increase? (By the way, does he like his successor’s plan?) What does this show of Governor Kaine’s understanding of basic economics? Why do he and other liberals complain about getting branded as big taxers and spenders when they thoughtlessly and reflexively propose more tax increases for every problem (real or imagined)? The fact that spending cuts and prioritizing never seriously are considered shows a true lack of imagination, leadership and courage.
There are at least two reasons why we do not support increasing taxes for “fixing transportation.” One is the lack of a constitutional amendment to protect Virginia’s Transportation Trust Fund from being raided. The other is the depression era law that controls how Virginia funds its transportation needs. Until those two issues are resolved, Virginians should not be asked to send more money to Richmond to fund a broken system.
It is a misnomer that conservatives are anti-tax. We’re anti-tax increases when taxpayer money is wasted on useless programs that often are counterproductive, when taxpayer money is not used for constitutional purposes, when politicians want to start new programs (especially during a shaky economy) to buy their “legacy” (pre-K, anyone?), and when government is so big and bloated that waste and abuse are rampant. When spending is cut in real terms and re-prioritized, and only constitutional functions of government are funded, then let’s talk about taxes.