Grover wades into the gas tax debate

Virginia’s press corps is in tall cotton: Grover Norquist has inserted himself into the pre-debate over a proposed gas tax increase.

In a letter intended entirely for public consumption, Norquist says the tax idea floated by Republican John Watkins (but that my sources say will actually be introduced by another GOP Senator) is nothing more than “a job-killing tax increase.”

But he does leave the worthies some wiggle room: “…voting to index the gas tax to inflation,without any complete offsets, would be in clear violation of the promise you made to your constituents and the people of Virginia to oppose any and all efforts to increase taxes.” (emphasis mine)

The lure of this offset option may be part of the reason why Gov. McDonnell is sending emissaries to Grover. If they can strike a deal, then no harm done to the would-be pledge breakers and Virginians get to pay more at the pump. Everybody wins!

Except for those folks in the House of Delegates who aren’t keen on the idea of raising the gas tax at all. Some House members are more keen on diverting a greater portion of the sales tax to roads. While this is mixing revenue apples with user fee oranges, and will upset the defenders of other government programs, it does have one benefit: it forces a choice.

But choices are hard and few legislators want to earn the VEA’s wrath. So what are the options?

I come back to something simple: trade a gas tax hike for full elimination of the car tax. Some folks really dislike this idea. But regardless of what the tax is called, or into which account the monies are deposited, their ultimate source is still you. And unlike others, my pocket is not bottomless.

There is one other thing to consider…

Back during the Kaine years, there was a great deal of talk about locking up the transportation trust fund so that any monies deposited there would remain beyond the reach of grasping legislators. Nothing happened.

A bit later, in 2009, there were bills from Sen. Steve Martin and Dels. Glenn Oder and Bob Marshall to put a lock box on the TTF, but, owing to a bit of bipartisan senatorial maneuvering, the bills died when the worthies decided to put lock boxes on both the TTF and the general fund. You know, as a way to ensure that no general fund money found its way into transportation and vice versa.

Since then, nothing has happened.

I suggest we breathe some life back into this idea. In this session. And lash it firmly to any and every proposal to increase the gas tax.

  • So, are there other Virginians of both parties that are insulted by the letter and by the pilgramage McDonnell will make to appeal to Grover Norquist to relent? I am not only insulted, but outraged that a non elected official could wield that much power to effect our Commonwealth in such a negative way. McDonnell has been a profoundly ineffective Governor who has continued the legacy of destruction and harm to our transportation infrastructure, our colleges and universities, K-12 educational systems, human services for the most vulnerable among us, and of course, local government programs and services as well as our retirement system for state and local employees. Basically, McDonnell has followed Norquist’s dictums to our detriment, and to think that McDonnell takes his orders from Norquist instead of from the voters of Virginia is deeply disturbing.

  • Nathan Miller

    Why anyone in our party gives him the time of day is beyond me…

    • I could not agree more. No sane person ever signs a pledge that includes the word “never.” Why on earth Virginia does not earmark gas taxes for VDOT escapes. And why our dear author is confusing user-taxes (that should support roads) with car taxes (that support local government and mainly schools), is beyond fathomable. I really wonder how this Commonwealth functions at all when our supposedly educated and learned pontiffs here do not even understand the basic elements of state and local government.

      • NormLeahy

        I understand them just fine. My point is very simple: you want one tax to go up (call it a user fee, if it makes you feel better) then carry out the promise made years ago to fully eliminate another. It’s a counter offer to the current proposal, which would raise the gas tax and cut income taxes for certain groups. That would take money from every other government function, including…wait for it…education.

        • yellowroz

          Is there any other tax that is indexed to the volume of a commodity (gallon of gas)? With efficiency going up it’s near-impossible for the infrastructure to keep pace with use.

          • MD Russ

            Yes. First the fuel tax would be indexed to the price of a gallon of fuel, not the volume. And once you do that, all you have done is to apply a sales tax to gasoline. As for efficiency going up, that doesn’t even come close to keeping pace with total consumption.

          • yellowroz

            Pegging the tax to the *price* of gasoline rather than the volume (per gallon) would be HUGE. Good for transportation infrastructure; not so much for Team Norquist.

  • As we approach the next election cycle, any candidate running for the House or the Senate should publicly answer one question before they ask anyone for money or support; that is, have you ever signed, or will you sign, the Grover Norquist no tax pledge. Now for me, anyone who answers yes should immediately be disqualified from running for elective office since they will owe their allegiance to Norquist, not to the voters, and we can see what havoc that has caused in the Commonwealth. So since Bearing Drift is supposedly the pulse of the republican party, why not take this on as a project and let us participants in this forum know the answer. Start with Cuccinelli.

    • MD Russ


      I could go along with that, provided that any candidate running for the House or the Senate answers one question: have you ever accepted any campaign support from George Soros and Deal?

      • Sorry, I don’t agree.

        This is an unbelievable abrogation of the duties and responsibilities of the
        office of the Governor. I thought we, the voters of Virginia, voted to elect
        Governor McDonnell to act in the public interest, and here all along he has been beholden to an unelected tyrant in DC who paints targets on the backs of any elected official who dares to oppose him by having an independent thought.
        McDonnell should recall his delegation to Norquist land and issue an immediate apology to the voters and the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and frankly, Cuccinelli should apologize for signing the pledge as well. Neither of these men have the right to give Norquist veto power of the voters of Virginia, and to have done so is despicable.

        • MD Russ

          Okay, Michael. Let me see if I have this straight:

          Accepting SuperPAC support from an anti-tax zealot–Bad, bad, bad.

          Accepting SuperPac support from a Socialist immigrant from Eastern Europe who openly advocates massive wealth redistribution–Hey, nothing wrong with that.

          Do you even read your comments before posting them?

  • Grover is right for all the wrong reasons. Indexing taxes to inflation is idiotic. It is contra any budget plan or strategic planning for growth and goals. It is not a job “killer”–it is just a status-quo, do-nothing, sound-bite. I am really wondering where the real leadership in this Commonwealth is hiding.

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