Where is Corey Stewart’s Tax Plan?
On March 16 Ed Gillespie, candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, rolled out a thorough tax plan that called for an across the board tax cut to Virginia’s income tax, the first since the current rates were established in Virginia in 1972.
That plan was backed with quotes from economists, specific economic forecasts, precise math on how the tax cut would be paid for through the General Assembly, surrogate support quotes, and the like. It was a carefully constructed policy proposal, one that had clearly been put through an exhaustive process.
A few hours later, fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart issued a press release announcing his tax plan, to entirely phase out the income tax.
However, contrasting to Gillespie’s plan, Stewart’s proposal was contained to a single press release, with no economic forecast, no surrogate support, just generalities and vagueness. It proclaimed that details would “… roll out a full explanation of Corey’s Big Bold Virginia Tax Cut in the coming weeks.”
That was 19 days ago, nearly 3 weeks.
It was clear then, as it is now, that Stewart’s press released tax proposal was almost certainly a knee-jerk reaction to Gillespie’s campaign. Contrast the two, and one’s a plan, the other is an idea scribbled on a napkin.
To whit, Stewart’s tax plan was so hastily constructed, it’s not even mentioned on his website. Despite his campaign’s claims to eliminate the state income tax, Stewart’s website only mentions generic reductions.
This hasn’t stopped Stewart’s team from constantly promoting his tax proposal on Facebook, of course. This is usually found with a pretty graphic and Facebook ad.
Yet any sort of details to this proposal remain to be seen.
Stewart claims in his press release that he will phase out the state income tax. Yet he only cites four counties as being impacted — those bordering Tennessee: Lee, Scott, Washington, and the City of Bristol. (Tennessee repealed their state income tax in 2016.) Everywhere else in the Commonwealth would have two tax brackets, above or below $17,000.
It is now 19 days later and still no word on what a tax cut would be, how much, when, where, etc, etc, etc. Facebook tells me 17.4 percent cut, then a flat tax, then 0 percent tax … I think?
Further, the only stated way to pay for such a cut would be an optional 5 percent, 10 percent, 15 percent plan to cut spending from every state agency. Given that every state agency just cut their budgets by 7.5 percent to cover a $1.5 billion deficit, such proposals would be nonstarters with the General Assembly and every state agency. No word on if public colleges would also be impacted, but needless to say with rising tuition at every school (Virginia Tech just voted to raise their tuition again for next year), further cuts to higher education would be a tough pill to swallow for Virginians.
And this is why specifics are necessary, and plans should be detailed and thorough when rolled out, not reactionary and ill-conceived. We’re left to fill in the gaps, search through puzzle pieces to an incomplete picture, when simply waiting a few weeks would achieve far better coverage.
Instead, Stewart’s campaign desperately tried stealing media coverage away from Gillespie’s tax plan which, as with every Stewart publicity stunt this cycle, failed. Gillespie’s plan was covered by every major media outlet, while Stewart’s press release was treated as a campaign response to Gillespie’s plan, not an alternative proposal.
Had Stewart’s team waited, their tax plan may have received similar coverage to Gillespie’s, rather than running second-fiddle the day of the rollout. Now, thanks to the rushed press released three weeks ago, whenever the plan is put to paper and actual details are announced, it’ll be treated at best as secondary coverage, if it’s even covered at all.
With just over two months to go before the June primary, the chasm in professionalism between the Gillespie campaign and the Stewart campaign cannot be overstated. With Gillespie maintaining a nearly 30-point lead for the last two months, it’s nearing run-out-the-clock time for the Gillespie camp.
If Stewart’s team has any chance at chipping away at the massive enthusiasm, polling, and policy gaps that exist between their campaign and Gillespie’s, they will need to start rolling out legitimate policy proposals,** not reactionary press releases, and publicity stunts.
**To their credit, Stewart’s campaign last week rolled out a more detailed plan to combat illegal immigration in Virginia, requiring every locality to enter a 287g agreement with ICE, requiring every employer in Virginia to use E-Verify, and defunding sanctuary cities.