The McDonnell-Bolling-Howell-Norment-Saslaw-Toscano tax increase has divided Bearing Drift as deeply as it has the Republican Party in Virginia as a whole. This is no surprise; even I acknowledge that – to borrow a quote from Bush the Younger – “people of good will can disagree on this issue.” In fact, I have already made my opposition plain.
However, it is getting to the point where proponents of the tax increase have become so brittle as to reject any critic they see or hear from beyond the Potomac (or the Blue Ridge…or the Carolina border…), as if no one outside Virginia should have an opinion on matters inside the Commonwealth.
For decades, state governments in America have been called “the laboratories of democracy.” Yet tax hike proponents now seem determined to reject anyone outside the lab warning of their experiment’s failure.
It is easy to beat up on those who are not knowledgeable of Virginia’s unique political rules (such as the Governor being unable to run for re-election), but that will not stop the rest of the nation’s conservatives from expressing alarm. Such as the editors of National Review, who painstakingly detail the impediments to this tax increase leading to anything “on the right side of a cost-benefit analysis.”
Moreover, railing against outside criticism does nothing to address (1) the ossified over-centralization of Virginia’s transportation system operating under a theory that Lee and Loudoun Counties can be comfortable in a one-size-fits-all system, (2) the disconnect between local land use decisions and state funding, thus creating that rarity of dysfunctions – the upstream unfunded mandate – or (3) a government monopoly in road maintenance that makes fixing potholes dependent on getting the attention of 61 legislators rather than market forces (to name just a few).
Indeed, tax increase proponents seem to believe that because they have a plan for roads, it must be a good plan. Nothing can be further from the truth, and railing against “out-of-state and national voices” will silence neither those voices nor those of us who agree with said voices. After all, many of those proponents are calling McDonnell’s action a model for the nation. One can understand why the rest of said nation might be leery of the largest state tax increase in Virginia history becoming a model for their state.
Lastly, those who resort to wrapping “bipartisanship and compromise” in Virginia history need be careful of what names they use. Some of us are well-versed on the First Party System, and we know the two people most responsible for cracking the Washingtonian consensus and inaugurating partisan politics were…Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Not only were these two men the most partisan presidents in the First Party Era (1789-1825), but Madison’s first term as president led to a bipartisan coalition opposing his re-election in 1812.