House Speaker Bill Howell has tried a new trick in distracting Republican primary voters from his tax-hike record: a spreadsheet. Don’t laugh, spreadsheet can be very useful in explaining…or confusing, which is what Howell’s table does quite nicely (ok, you can laugh now).
The Speaker claims that Virginia taxpayers would have suffered $30 billion in higher taxes over the last 12 years…but for him. That’s right, just because Howell has been speaker, those tax increases were scotched. I decided to take a look at the 26 bills Howell cites, and there is less than meets the eye – literally, one of the bills cited doesn’t exist according to the Legislative Information Services (LIS), but it only accounts for $6 million, so we can let that pass.
More problematic is the fate of the actual bills themselves. None of them actually made it to the House of Delegates floor: they all died in Committee or subcommittee. In fact, where committee/subcommittee votes were cast on killing the bills, not even a majority of Democrats were willing to save them. Something tells me a speaker not named Bill Howell could have watched these tax hikes die quick deaths just as easily as he did.
I should also add that nearly 40% of the figure Howell cites includes tax hikes he “defeated” in 2003 or 2004 but came back to life to become law under the Warner Tax Hike of 2004.
This brings me to the more important point here, the tax hikes that were enacted during Howell’s watch – the Warner Tax Hike (SB5005 and HB5018), the hideous HB3202 of 2007 (partially invalidated by the Supreme Court), and the McDonnell tax increase of 2013 (HB2313). How much did those cost Virginians?
To find out, I used the impact statements provided by LIS for the House Bills (in the case of SB5005, which had no impact statement, I used projected numbers from HB2363 from the 2003 session, which dealt with the same issue as SB5005: Car Tax Relief).
Overall, over $20.3 billion in tax increases (from effective dates to 2015) have been enacted while Bill Howell has been speaker. Thankfully, the Supreme Court’s ruling knocked out about $3.8 billion, but that still leaves $16.5 billion in higher taxes paid by Virginians due to Howell’s reign as Speaker, either via his active support (2007 and 2013) or by his inability to keep tabs on his caucus (2004, when he asked tax-hike opponents to take a walk so he could ostensibly defeat the tax increase on the floor of the House).
That’s the more important number in Bill Howell’s record, and it’s why Susan Stimpson is running against him.