(if you don’t have access, here’s the text …)
A Cavalier Fiasco – Virginia Republicans try to elect the next Democratic Governor.
There’s one thing uglier than a Democratic tax-and-spend spree. A Republican one. On Friday Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and a GOP-run legislature approved a five-year, $6 billion transportation bill financed almost entirely with higher sales and car taxes. The big winners are unions, real estate developers and the transit lobby.
Taxpayers didn’t fare so well. The sales tax rises to 6% from 5% in Hampton Roads and populous Northern Virginia and to 5.3% everywhere else. The hated car tax (which Republicans once vowed to eliminate) rises to 4.3% from 3%, meaning a new $30,000 car or truck will come with a $1,290 tax bill. Then there’s a new 0.25% sales tax on homes in Northern Virginia, plus a new hotel tax.
Mr. McDonnell claims that “with this bill gas prices will be reduced” because he’s eliminated the 17.5 cents a gallon gas tax. Yet he’s replaced it with a more hidden 3.5% tax on the wholesale price of gas. With wholesale prices nearing $4 a gallon, this is a 14 cents a gallon tax. This new levy will automatically rise with inflation and oil price spikes, which means over time the McDonnell gas tax “cut” may be an increase.
Virginia has severe traffic congestion, but that is mostly because roads have long been a lower priority than everything else in the $36 billion Virginia budget. Mr. McDonnell persuaded Democrats to earmark $200 million from the general fund for roads. But in return the law earmarks hundreds of millions of dollars for lightly used transit projects, including $300 million for a multibillion-dollar Dulles airport rail project that will require subsidies to run.
Mr. McDonnell even cut an 11th-hour deal with Democrats over the expansion of Medicaid under ObamaCare. Last Wednesday Mr. McDonnell issued a press release declaring: “I cannot and will not support consideration of an expansion of Medicaid in Virginia until major reforms are authorized and completed, and until we receive guarantees that the federal government’s promises to the states can be kept without increasing the immoral national debt.”
Two days later, to secure Democratic votes on his tax increase, he agreed to let a bicameral commission decide if the state will expand Medicaid. He agreed even though his attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, issued an opinion that this is an unconstitutional delegation of authority. Mr. McDonnell says the commission means Virginia won’t expand Medicaid as long as Republicans control the legislature, but wait until the hospital lobby gets done working the same Republicans who raised taxes.
Senator Chap Petersen, a Democrat, aptly described the final deal as “a grotesque combination of tax cuts, tax rebates, tax increases, new taxes, old taxes which are phased out (and then reappear elsewhere), regional alliances . . . special projects, and exceptions to all of the above.” He asked his Republican colleagues: “Did you have to rewrite the entire Code book, so you could use the fake ‘but we’re cutting taxes too!’ line on gullible voters?”
This fiasco will haunt Republicans in a state that holds elections in November. Probable Democratic nominee for Governor Terry McAuliffe endorsed the bill knowing it erases any GOP advantage on taxes and spending. Mr. Cuccinelli, the likely Republican nominee, opposed the bill but must now find a way to rally a splintered GOP and demoralized conservatives. At least Republicans can erase Mr. McDonnell’s name as a national candidate or VP choice in 2016.
Not sure whether to laugh or cry. The WSJ makes a few minor factual errors. I’m also not sure how “binding” is the agreement between the Governor and the Senate Dems on Medicaid. Trust me, we wanted a stronger commitment.
It’s interesting that it took a media outsider to speak honestly about the train wreck that was the final compromise on HB 2313. The reporting by our local papers was so busy pandering to the political establishment that they failed to report …
that the Emperor had no clothes.
(OK, when do we begin the countdown to the veto?)