Newspaper coverage of the car tax press conference, while frequently mentioning the tax as a possible gubernatorial election issue, takes a more measured tone, except for the AP story by Bob Lewis.
Resuming the rollback of the hated local levy on personal cars and pickup trucks comes as state revenues pile up far in excess of their forecasts and legislators ponder other tax relief measures.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Vincent F. Callahan Jr. said that once the $950 million annual cap on state car tax reimbursements to localities is lifted, it will take years to finish the car tax cut.
“We have not worked out the details but I think perhaps over the next six years,” Callahan said.
The proposal instantly created a potentially explosive partisan issue in a governor’s race already distinguished for its angry tone with an election more than nine months away.
“Hated” local levy? As opposed to the beloved income tax? Or perhaps the quaint and comforting real estate tax?
“[I]nstantly created a potentially explosive partisan issue? What, like the tax referendum proposed last year. “Implosive” might be the better term.
If there were any doubt that this is election year posturing, Del. Vince Callahan dispelled it.
Callahan acknowledged that finding a new way to wipe out the car tax for good and end the reimbursement mechanism for providing car tax relief would have been preferable to lifting the car tax cap and slowly erasing the remaining 30 percent of the tax car owners still pay.
“That would be the ideal solution to my way of thinking, but we don’t have anything before us now that is politically palatable,” Callahan said. “If someone can come up with an idea, then fine.”
When asked why push to resume the phaseout now, he replied, “Because it’s there.”
…and this is an election year and I fell into that trap didn’t I?
The impact of this pathetic ploy?
Finishing the car tax repeal would wipe out about half the new revenues the state gained last year.
… Warner and Senate leaders have said the surplus is an aberration that will disappear next year when the state will need to find $2.5 billion in new money to keep pace with the rising costs of health care, education and public safety.
… [House Speaker Bill] Howell said the state can afford to do it. He said the general fund budget has grown by $7 billion in recent years, and that ending the car tax would only be a small portion of that.
“It’s not like we’re going to be starving education or other services.”
But Chichester said that other increases in mandated spending, for things like Medicaid and public education, are going to take bigger bites out of future budgets.
“You could easily look at over a couple of billion dollars in demands over which we have no control,” Chichester said. He added that the House’s proposal is not “a characteristic of good long-term fiscal management.”
Memo to Dems: remember that phrase “good long-term fiscal management.” It’ll win some elections.