Monthly Archives: May 2004

Virginia News

Del. Dave Albo (R-Fairfax) finds himself out of step with fellow Fairfax Republicans Del. Vince Callahan and Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites. Albo voted against the tax increases and the budget because he says Fairfax doesn’t get its fair share of its tax dollars returned to the county. Of course, the question is what’s fair? A couple of years ago, a proposal for a sales tax increase for schools would have returned 80% of Fairfax’s new tax dollars to the county, but Albo opposed that, too, because he felt Fairfax didn’t get enough. So it appears that nothing short of every Fairfax dollar returning to the county is good enough for Albo. Meanwhile, Callahan and Devolites endorsed the final budget, even though Callahan voted against the tax increase that made the budget possible.

Alexandria Delegate Marian Van Landingham took note of the irony:

“It really disturbs me that not one member of the House conference committee voted for the revenue package but got to decide how to spend it…. Not only did they get to decide how to spend the money but some of them received special benefits from the revenue package they fought so hard to defeat. The majority leader (Salem Delegate Morgan Griffith (R)], for example, got money for a museum in Roanoke. It’s just really annoying.”

Alluding to the increases in funding for K-12 schools and higher education, Sen. Jay O’Brien (R-Fairfax), and Delegates Jeff Frederick (R-Prince William) and Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), who all voted against the tax increases that made those spending increases possible, “said they do not dispute that those budget increases were good.”

Democrats think the budget fight bodes well for their candidates in 2005 when all delegate seats will be up for re-election. House Democratic caucus leader Del. Brian Moran says the Democrats’ theme will be that the GOP has shown an “inability to govern.”

And party leader Kerry Donley says Gov. Mark Warner’s star has risen mightily as a result of the budget compromise.

Maybe on both counts. But a leading Virginia businessman told me yesterday he feels Warner was too quick to compromise and left money on the table, especially for transportation, that a savvier politician could have collected.

And a more nuanced strategy for Democrats was articulated by the Governor himself yesterday when he said,

“In the two years since I took office, Virginia has faced $6 billion in budget shortfalls. We closed those shortfalls by shrinking the size of government, and by insisting on reforms that increase efficiency. Today’s action does not change in any way our continuing determination to reform government and to make it more efficient. The investments made today will protect Virginia’s most basic assets for years to come, and we must remain responsible stewards.”

If Democrats focus on efficiency and fiscal prudence over the next year and suggest even more ways of saving taxpayer money in the ’05 campaigns, they may find themselves in much better position to raise more revenue, especially for transportation, in the following Assembly session.

Meanwhile, tax reform is still only a goal.

Even Sen. Emmett Hanger, one of the leaders of the tax-reform movement from his perch in the upper house, isn’t sure that what the General Assembly came up with at the end of the budget process was true reform.
“We’ve still got some work to do,” said Hanger, listing among the items that he had hoped would be included in the final revenue package the elimination of the estate tax and a continuation of the car-tax phaseout.
“There was a feeling that legislators were becoming wary of raising some taxes to eliminate others, so those two fell by the wayside in the final accounting. But we can work to get back on track next year,” Hanger told the [Augusta Free Press].

And transportation still waits … and suffers.

Here’s a great little story about how government can help workers whose jobs are lost to outsourcing or other systemic changes in the economy.

MoveOn gets to Move On

The Federal Election Commission today refused to eviscerate the “527s,” the organizations that raise money, so far mostly for liberal causes. In a 4-2 vote FEC commissioners said they would take no action for at least 90 days, giving MoveOn, America Coming Together and the Media Fund, as well as GOP 527s that may now emerge, to keep raising money for independent ad campaigns and get out the vote efforts.

Calling the Bushies

Maybe Jim VandeHei of The Washington Post is doing it right, because sometimes he makes me scream and other times, like today, he exhibits the objectivity I’d like to see other reporters emulate. By that I don’t mean balanced; rather he doesn’t let politicians get away with untruths.

The Bush campaign has repeatedly accused the senator of “politicizing” Iraq. Bush-Cheney chairman Marc Racicot told reporters Wednesday that Kerry is relentlessly “playing politics” and exploiting tragedy for political gain.

Racicot, for instance, told reporters that Kerry suggested that 150,000 or so U.S. troops are “somehow universally responsible” for the misdeeds of a small number of American soldiers and contractors. Racicot made several variations of this charge. But Kerry never said this, or anything like it.

As evidence, Racicot pointed to the following quote Kerry made at a fundraiser on Tuesday: “What has happened is not just something that a few a privates or corporals or sergeants engaged in. This is something that comes out of an attitude about the rights of prisoners of war, it’s an attitude that comes out of America’s overall arrogance in its policy that is alienating countries all around the world.”

What Racicot did not mention was that Kerry preceded this remark by saying, “I know that what happened over there is not the behavior of 99.9 percent of our troops.”

“I was Wrong”

Tom Freidman of the New York Times is smart, brash and full of confidence. He’s been a big supporter of the Iraqi war, but today, he admits, “I was wrong” about Bush.

Master Plan

Even as strong a supporter of Israel as Richard Cohen thinks the Palestinians’ “master plan” might trump Israel’s plan for permanent settlements, i.e., occupation.

Virginia News

As I feared, Fairfax County, flush with new money from the state as a result of the budget negotiations, is talking about property tax cuts. No mention about using the extra money for schools.


Gov. Mark Warner’s appearance at the Arlington County Courthouse today was cancelled.

Good Advice

Washington Post columnist William Raspberry had a good column yesterday titled “Nader’s Advice to Kerry.” Compare it with Sunday’s article by Jim VandeHei about the similarities of the views and proposed policies of President Bush and Sen. Kerry.

Kerry is turning out to be Howard Dean’s followers’ worst nightmare. He seems incapable of challenging Bush on some of the issues Raspberry outlines. Kerry seems afraid to be a Democrat, instead positioning himself as a neo-liberal, a centrist, a moderate. Whatever the term, it’s one that lacks a backbone. If Kerry is going carry out policies similar to Bush’s, what have we gained? And if you argue that he’s simply moderating his views for the stump and will act very differently once elected, how have we advanced the nature of the political dialogue in this country? No matter how bad I think Bush’s policies have been for this country, I’m not sure I’m willing to vote for one liar over another. Maybe a vote for Nader and his denying Kerry the election will be enough for the Democratic party to change its ways.

As we’ve seen in Virginia, a Democratic leader can achieve the improbable. Not that Gov. Warner has been a radical, but he achieved a clearly Democratic agenda in funding education and made no bones about raising taxes. Sure, he sold it as a tax cut for 65 percent of the populace, but if he can raise taxes in a state sure to go to Bush in November, can’t Kerry take a truly Democratic agenda a little further in Iowa, Ohio, Minnesota and other swing states?