Raising taxes makes sense, really…

Red v. Blue
Red vs Blue – Is that all we have left?

The recent transportation bill has provoked yet another skirmish between the frustrated conservative grassroots and the frustrated cohort of tax increasers.

Blog posts are flying. You’ve seen the split here on Bearing Drift and probably in your Facebook news feed too.

Governor McDonnell has mounted a slick campaign to sell the legislation – while other GOP leaders are collecting petition signatures urging him to veto it.

Talking points for the legislation boil down to what one delegate from my own county argued: I went to Richmond to solve problems, to promote an environment where businesses can flourish and create jobs. We need a strong transportation network to do that and this measure will strengthen our transportation network.

In short: Raising taxes = Solving problems

Within the bubble often occupied by legislators and legislative staff, raising taxes does indeed look like a solution – even the only solution. The problem is clear, presented by agency staff, lobbyists, campaign donors and colleagues: $_X__ are desperately needed to meet a great public need. Every tax dollar on its way to the treasury is already allocated to some other pressing need, to satisfy some federal mandate or to appease one or another special interest. Clearly more revenue is needed and revenue comes from tax dollars. The solution must be to come up with a tax increase cocktail that the public can swallow, either by spreading a small per capita tax over a large swath of the population, or targeting a small portion of the population with a rather significant tax. Call it making the rich pay their fair share, call it abuser fees, or argue that some particular tax or fee has not increased in thirty years and more revenue is essential to keep up with the demands of our time. Surely everyone will understand.

Except that everyone doesn’t understand. For some mysterious reason, a most unaccommodating group of constituents (often known as “the conservative base”), respond to the tax increase with great ire. They say things like:
frustrated on fb

Those Americans who still have jobs increasingly feel the burden of supporting those who do not. Mom was laid off but she still needs to pay her heating bill, so we give generously. The grocery store is supporting a drive by the local food pantry and we add a few extra cans to the shopping cart. Our house of worship takes up an extra collection to help those in need and we decide to forego Starbucks in favor of helping our neighbor. At the same time, we are being squeezed by government. Maybe we got a 1.5% pay increase last year – and then we saw an extra 2% come out of our paycheck for Social Security, starting in January. Gas prices increased $0.25 / gallon last month. The cost of health insurance keeps going up, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (was that bill title a cruel joke?). We hear a troubling rumor: since our company is now forced to provide health insurance for employee’s offspring until they are 26 years old, they are thinking about controlling costs by dumping spousal benefits. The little we have has to go farther and farther and farther.

We feel like the cash cow that is out of milk but still being head-butted, sucked raw and stripped dry.

To add insult to injury, not only is the Democratic majority and Republican minority in Washington ignoring us but the Republican majority in Richmond is too! Apparently bi-partisanship means that both parties agree that they should have the spending of our hard-earned money.

Ideally, the two party system is supposed to ensure that the voters have a choice between two competing ideologies, two different visions or directions for their government – for their future. When our electeds never can seem to agree on reducing spending or reducing the size and scope of Government but can find common ground around skimming just a little more off our paycheck, our elections have been reduced to providing voters with a choice between two or more competing personalities.

I am a grassroots Republican activist because I believe in presenting my fellow Virginians with a compelling vision for limited, efficient, liberty respecting, personal rights protecting government. Rather than proudly carrying that banner and protecting their constituents from wasteful spending and unwanted tax increases, Republican leadership betrayed my principles to the point that some are even asking what the point is of having the Virginia GOP.

As usual, Sen. Chap Peterson (D-34) had the money quote on the deal, describing it 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.”

And the Wall Street Journal opined: “There’s one thing uglier than a Democratic tax-and-spend spree. A Republican one.”

That’s kind of ugly has to stop. And that’s why I’m not giving up on the Virginia GOP. I still believe in common-sense, conservative principles. I don’t want to go into the next election and try to convince my neighbors that red is a prettier color than blue (and I won’t). I want to persuade them that conservative principles empower all of us to be our best selves, to care for our families and then have some left over to invest for our retirement (who under 40 believes Social Security will be there for them?) and help our neighbors (because social welfare enslaves rather than empowers those who are struggling).

So raising taxes really does make sense – IF (and only if) you resolutely ignore your taxpaying constituents. And, for some – including Governor McDonnell – your promises to them.


Note: This post has been updated to reflect Sen. Peterson’s accurate quote regarding HB 2313, the transportation tax bill, and the Wall Street Journal quote regarding the bill.

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  • MD Russ

    Good post. I think that what the “hell, no, don’t raise taxes” liberty platform folks are missing is that taxation needs are like a rain-swollen river. The longer you try to dam it, the worse the flooding is going to be when the dam is breached. When was the last time the gas tax was raised? When was the last time the sales tax was raised? When was the last time the Virginia income tax brackets were raised? And yet, during all those years, our population has increased, the number of vehicles using our highways has increased, our infrastructure has gotten older, and we have had inflation that lowers the buying power of our tax dollars. If you say “no tax increases ever,” than sooner or later the dam is going to break and then watch out. And that is precisely what this transportation plan represents.

    I don’t like taxes anymore than the next guy. I am particularly angry that I pay some of the highest property taxes in Virginia because I live in NoVa. Meanwhile, in most counties in RoVa, where real estate prices are half of ours, they pay half or one-third the property tax rate that I do. Meanwhile, Richmond sends tax dollars from NoVa and Hampton Roads to RoVa to help them pay for schools, public safety, and other services. The problem in Virginia is not that taxes are too high, but that some folks just aren’t paying their fair share and the rest of us are supporting them. Does that sound familiar when you consider the problem of the 47%?

    • EricMcGrane

      “Liberty platform” folks understand full well that taxes are necessary. However, we do NOT support tax increases until government governs only within its prescribed sphere of authority, and no further.

      Eliminate waste. Make it hurt.
      Close non-essential programs.
      Apply trans funding *to* trans funding, and no other BS projects.

      You do all those things above, I’ll actually make the effort to listen. But HELL NO, not as long as cuts aren’t even being discussed.

      • MD Russ


        As usual, you weren’t paying attention. We have had steadily increasing demands for tax-supported improvements but no tax increases. “Eliminate waste and close non-essential programs” sounds good, but the Devil is in the details. What are your non-essential programs? Public education? Libraries? Toll-free highways? Public safety? Food inspection? Parks and recreation? I saw a recent Gallup poll where an overwhelming response was that we should eliminate “tax loopholes.” But when the next question asked if we should eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction, the results dramatically swung in the other way.

        Everyone wants to go to Heaven but no one wants to die to get there.

      • E M Barner

        Eric – I am completely with you on that.

      • Why would eliminating “waste” hurt?

        • EricMcGrane

          Because the definition of what classifies as “waste” is not always universally accepted.

        • EM Barner

          Because some things that many of us consider wasteful spending are somebodies pet project. Why do you think it is so hard to get rid of all the waste the Wilder commission identified way back when?

        • Cowabunga1000

          Waste = “Anything I don’t personally consider important.”

  • Couple of things. First, the guy on Facebook who wakes up every day with a new tax added to him isn’t really indicative of the whole country, or even most of it. We in Virginia haven’t had to deal with a large number of tax increases, even on the local level, unless you live Northern Virginia. Federally, most in the middle class haven’t seen a real income tax increase in quite a long time. Property taxes fluctuate the most of any.

    We as Republicans need to work to ensure that taxes stay low – but low taxes doesn’t mean no taxes and it doesn’t mean no tax increases ever. If a tax increase to pay for transportation saves taxpayers money down the road – whether its through quicker commutes, less wear and tear on the car, or by staving off larger tax increases down the road – there’s no real reason, other than an ideological bent, to say no.

    You do bring up a good point when you talk about all the things folks do with their money. Incomes are stagnating in America, and have been for thirty years. Why? And what can we do about it? That’s a bigger issue to me than these tax increases, because it hits every American in the wallet. We are called upon to do more with less, and I don’t understand why, especially given the amount of wealth that’s been created in the country through our competitiveness and productivity over the last decades.

  • Disagreements aside, +10 points for the Yes, Prime Minister video!

  • There is a great divide on this bill , because this bill stinks. The monies are not earmarked for transportation, nor will they be put in a separate fund that will be untouchable. There is question over the taxes applied, and the Constitutionality(Virginia) of said taxes. The tax rates are contingent on whether the federal congress passes the internet tax. How many people are aware that if you buy or sell a home you will ante up $750-$1000 tax for the bill? This is a big conglomeration of junk that is not well thought out, and everyone admits they didn’t have time to read it (sound familiar?).
    How can any taxpayer be expected to support this mess? I would suggest that a more thorough reading be done of the bill. Talking points be damned…the devil is in the details!

  • Great post Eve! Thank you for saying what so many of us are thinking. Either my party changes, and begins to care about the people, and not just their business interests, or I need a new party.

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