Jackson unveils “Engage and Reform Agenda”

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.

  • We’ve gone over this before Norm, but I’ll say it again – unilaterally disarming in the battle to lure businesses to Virginia is a bad idea. Nobody likes corporate welfare, but when every state around us is doing it, if we stop, we will lose potential employers to Maryland and other states who can provide the incentives most businesses are looking for. Unless we had some kind of an agreement with our neighbors to all stop their subsidies, doing this would be like scrapping our nukes while the Soviets keep theirs. It’s a bad idea.

    • NormLeahy

      The “everyone else is doing it” excuse doesn’t fly when our children use it, and for very good reason. But we should look the other way when government does the same thing?

      • When our kids say “everyone else is doing it” is usually is something dumb or potentially dangerous. We can argue about the dumb part, but the reality is we’ll lose out on a lot of potential long-term revenue and jobs for Virginians if we unilaterally disarm on the corporate incentives when none of our competitors do so. Nobody would do this if they didn’t feel they have to.

        • The Washington Redskins received corporate welfare from the Commonwealth of Virginia and Loudoun County to keep the corporate headquarters and practice facility in Loudoun County. They were going to move to Maryland otherwise. It did not make sense that Loudoun County gave the Redskins money only to have them relocate training camp to Richmond.

          FedEx Field is in Prince George’s County. It would be much better from a football standpoint to bring the practice facility closer to the stadium. I would have preferred to save taxpayer dollars and let them move to Maryland.

    • Ah now we see the true nature of Brian’s alleged “I support free markets” philosophy.

      There’s a word for the system where governments hand out goodies to select corporations who return the favor by providing benefits to that government – it’s called Fascism. I think it may be time for you to confront the fact that it is that system, not free markets, that you actually support.

      • I’m not making a policy argument. I am making a pragmatic one. In a perfect world, Norm is absolutely correct. But we don’t live in that world, and the harm to Virginia caused by not providing incentives is greater on the whole than the harm in providing them. I would rather we not have to do this, but unless and until our competition stops doing it, we can’t afford to.

        • I disagree. Due to taxes and subsidies, business is harder for those business not getting particular favors from the government. By doing away with a process that is essentially taking from non-politically-favored businesses and giving to politically-favored ones, the market conditions improve for far more market players relative to the current conditions.

          You would do well to study Bastiat, because you pretty much just gave the broken window argument right there. It is not just the seen that counts, but also the unseen.

          • In general, corporate welfare puts independent small businesses and working families at a deep disadvantage. The incentive that corporate welfare provides is for businesses to grow enormously large to the point that they are “too big to fail” because so much of the people are dependent upon this private business for jobs. At that point, the big business can act like a quasi-state and force the government to do its bidding. Meanwhile, the little guy has to fight for table scraps.

            Take the film industry for example. States offer handouts and giveaways to major motion picture studios from Hollywood to shoot films in the state. What about the independent freelance filmmakers? These people are often home-grown creative talent that can flourish if the playing field offered true equality of opportunity. However, that is not the case. MGM employs hundreds of people, so the state must offer lucrative handouts in order for the politicians to brag about “creating jobs” during their next reelection. The independent filmmaker employs less than ten people so he or she is out of luck.

            Wal-Mart is one of those quasi-states since their annual revenues dwarf the GDP of most developing countries. Because they employ so many people they can exercise much political clout in the community and get favorable tax treatment and handouts. People are scared to see what would happen if Wal-Mart moved away. Here is an idea. How about we craft legislation and policies that will empower mom-and-pop grocery stores so that they are not at an economic disadvantage against a rent-seeking oligopolist?

            Corporate welfare exists as a remedy because politicians succumb to fear of losing an election and lack creativity. As a result, the laws are made by the rich for the rich.

          • I’m familiar with Bastiat and the broken window parable. That’s not what I’m suggesting. I fully recognize the concept of opportunity costs. My point is that our competition is doing this. Maryland, West Virginia and other states have considerable resources they use to lure business to their states. These companies shop around to get the best deal. And even in states that aren’t close to being as good a place to do business as Virginia will get those jobs if they make it more enticing in the short term to relocate to their state. It’s not a good thing, but it is reality.

            As for small businesses, they aren’t disadvantaged, and they have their own subsidies and tax breaks they take advantage of. Just look at the Small Business Administration and the programs they provide. Everybody has a shot at corporate welfare. That’s what exists now, even if we don’t like it.

            As I said, this isn’t something we do because believe it is good policy. It is something we do because if we don’t, we disadvantage Virginians who want jobs, localities who want new taxpayers, and miss opportunities that we might otherwise be able to get. There is a cost to that, too.

            Like I said, I don’t like it and its not philosophically defensible, but to unilaterally disarm would damage the Commonwealth for purely ideological reasons. That’s not good enough for me.

          • This is an apples vs. oranges comparison. There is no comparison between the type of assistance small business people can receive from the government compared to the assistance big business does receive from the government. When was the last time an enterprising individual from the middle class able to get the government to raise taxes, issue a bond, or give a grant solely for him to get the money to build an office building? Unless you are the owner of the Miami Marlins who was able to get Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami to foot over 80% of the bill for Marlins Park, you are on your own.

            The government should only finance core functions like public safety and transportation. When the government starts to finance private businesses, problems with fairness and equity abound.

  • Wally Erb

    Somehow, I am confused. How does a Virginia Lt Governor initiate a platform other than replacement should the Governor be unable to serve due to death, disqualification or resignation?

    According to the Commonwealth’s Constitution, the Lt. Governor serves as President of the Senate during the session with the power of a tie-breaking vote and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation
    and the Center for Rural Virginia; the Board of Directors of the
    Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the Virginia Tourism
    Authority; the Virginia Military Advisory Council, the Commonwealth
    Preparedness Council and the Council on Virginia’s Future.

    Since Virginia initiated the popular election of its Lieutenant Governor in 1851, no Governor has died in office. As such, this platform is that of rhetoric and meaningless in the execution of The Lt. Governor’s duties and responsibilities.

    • In case you missed it Wally… our Lt. Governor is two things: (1) a bully pulpit to emphasize policy, and (2) the deciding 20-20 vote on just about everything for the next three years.

      Jackson is positioning himself and his vote on five core issues. Not a bad play.

  • I do not support EW Jackson’s candidacy but his call for an end to corporate welfare is spot on. This will also help us identify the rent-seekers within our own party who have been abusing the party’s political power to achieve private gain.

    Small business of course has no influence to get any such special favors, yet small business is really what makes the economy go. End all subsidies and targeted tax breaks, and lower overall rates to create better market conditions to all businesses. The benefits will far outweigh the dubious benefits brought by companies who come here only to feed on tax dollars – and who will leave the moment those tax dollars are no longer available to be fed upon.

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