E.W. Jackson, one of the many candidates seeking the GOP’s lieutenant governor nomination, has decided to inject a few Big Ideas of his own into the contest via what his campaign is calling its “Engage and Reform Agenda.” This agenda has five parts, some of which are a bit familiar:
1. Demand a Taxpayer Bill of Rights
2. Restore Individual and Religious Liberty By Refusing To Participate In State Exchanges For Obamacare.
3. End Unfunded State Mandates to Local Governments
4. Permanently Defund Planned Parenthood
5. End Corporate Subsidies in Virginia
Pretty straight forward stuff. A taxpayer bill of rights is an idea that got some notice seven or eight years ago — back during the days when the state was rolling in surpluses, but managed to find ways to spend that money, rather than return it to taxpayers. TABORs can be tricky things. Simply demanding one — any one — rather than focusing on the right one is key. But it is refreshing to see a candidate for statewide office bring this idea back into the discussion.
The item that leaps out for me, though, is Jackson’s call to end Virginia’s corporate welfare. Not all of it — his proposal appears to be limited, so far, to closing the Governor’s Opportunity Fund. The $40 million or so in this pot of taxpayer gold is only the beginning of the problem. According to this data from the New York Times, Virginia hands out more than a billion dollars a year on subsidies and incentives. That’s real money, especially in a state that could use an extra billion on other items, say, transportation. Or it is money that could be left in the hands of the businesses and individuals who supplied it in the first place.
Ending corporate welfare, and making Virginia a market-friendly, rather than a business-friendly, state should be on the agenda of every statewide candidate. That Jackson is advancing the idea even on a limited basis is to his credit. The other campaigns should follow his example.