The Washington Post headline overstates and in some ways contradicts the gist of the article.
Republicans who voted for tax increases are likely to face primary challenges from anti-tax candidates. Winners could then enter a general election unsure whether the whole party was behind them.
In effect, some politicians and observers say, there could be three parties in Virginia: Democrats, Republicans and anti-tax Republicans….
The centrist Democratic Leadership Council declared “an astounding political victory for New Democrat Gov. Mark Warner” and suggested that other party leaders study his governing style…
[Grover] Norquist … blamed the loss in Virginia on a “total lack of leadership….”
If [Democrats] can avoid being labeled pro-taxes, they can run as the protectors of education, health care, public safety and other core state services.
“Without us, we wouldn’t have come up with a budget,” said Del. Brian J. Moran (Alexandria), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “We avoided a government shutdown, we preserved our credit rating, we governed responsibly. The Republican majority has been in disarray, and it’s a demonstration of their inability to govern, and that’s what we’ll run on.”
I’m not convinced that’s enough to run on – and win. In fact, Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City), who voted against the tax hike and car tax cap, previewed what could be the right’s platform for ‘05
“I took my stand. And I think those of us who took our stand, we were able to at least reduce the tax load on the citizens of the commonwealth from what it might have been otherwise. The Senate started out at $3.8 billion (in increased tax revenues), and now they’re down to $1.2 billion or thereabouts,” he said Wednesday.
“By taking a principled stand we were able to protect the citizens from an even bigger tax load. So I’ll not say we totally lost. But compromises have to occur, and I look forward to working with the (Southwest Virginia) delegation on all these other issues we’ve got to work on for Southwest Virginia.”
And conservatives can succeed if Democrats decide to sit on their laurels as “the party that can govern.” What will be imperative in the 18 months before all delegates run for re-election is for Democrats to 1/prove that the state government will successfully manage the new monies, 2/admit this isn’t nirvana; there are still needs that must be addressed, and 3/show they have a couple of ideas of how to save taxpayers money.
While many in the House have abandoned their anti-tax philosophy, the Assembly has yet to depart from its big-spending creed. The legislature failed to take steps to avert the next shortfall, which almost certainly will occur the next time the economy slows, even with the tax hikes. If the House cannot insist on keeping tax increases to a moderate level below $1 billion, then at the least it should insist on socking away a significant portion of the new revenue in the rainy-day fund. Having caved on taxes, it also should insist on some form of quid pro quo on the spending side of the ledger – namely, a constitutional amendment holding future spending increases to some factor of population growth plus inflation. If it does not, then the Assembly’s terminal case of dollarhea will produce more “shortfalls” in the coming years.
[The tax bill] does not overhaul the state’s tax structure to make tax burdens measurably fairer; it does not raise the top income tax bracket; it keeps the state’s cigarette tax far lower than it could be. It generates no substantive funds for much-needed road improvements. Though the legislation closes some loopholes that allow corporations to shift their profits out of the state tax-free, it leaves exemptions and other escape hatches.
The tax plan approved Tuesday by the Virginia General Assembly is called “tax reform” by its proponents, “tax increases” by its opponents.
In fact, the plan is neither.
Reform? The slightly progressive state income tax is made slightly more so – but the regressive state sales tax is expanded and raised by half a cent.
Increases? As a percentage of personal income, taxation in Virginia will still be significantly lower than just 10 years ago and will still be lower than in most other states.
In fact, the plan is damage control.
The passage of the tax increases throws the politics of the ’05 political campaign in Virginia into a netherworld where Republicans can’t promise to hold the line on taxes and Democrats can’t say the sky is falling.
Therefore, what is called for is a rational debate on where we go from here and how. Of course, “rational debate” shouldn’t even be on the same page (or blog) with the words “political campaign.”
But those of us about to charge the next windmill never say never.
Speaking of politics.
“Taxes suck the lifeblood out of families, businesses and our economy’s growth,” [Del. Joe May (R-Loudoun) said April 12 when he announced he was seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor next year.
Yesterday, Mr. May, who has not signed the anti-tax pledge, said he voted in favor of the tax increases because it was necessary to end the stalemate.
“I am still very much opposed to taxes, but in this case I’m more opposed to failing to achieve a budget,” he said. “I felt if we didn’t do it [Tuesday] it wasn’t going to get done.”
Or maybe this was the reason.
There may be a sine die vote tomorrow.
The Hampton Roads Daily Press weighs in on local races.