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March 26, 2003

Would You Buy a Used Car From This Governor?

Governor Mark Warner (D) denied Tuesday that his call for "tax restructuring" is a Trojan horse for state tax increases, according to the Times-Dispatch.

"Absolutely not!" Warner told a caller during his monthly call-in show broadcast on WTOP radio in Washington.

The Democrat said Virginia's tax system is antiquated and needs a top-to-bottom overhauling to guarantee fairness and equity on the state and local levels.

In recent remarks, the governor has fueled speculation that he wants to raise additional dollars through tax reform to finance major needs in public education.

Mmm hmm. It's been a long time since I heard any ordinary Virginian complain about tax "antiquation" or tax "equity." What I keep hearing is that taxes are TOO HIGH!

March 25, 2003

Governor Amends Budget; Vetoes Repeal of Death Tax

In a March 24 press release, Governor Mark Warner announced 67 budget amendments and the veto of the General Assembly's repeal of the death tax. In deciding to veto repeal of the death tax, the Governor ignores its support by small business owners, family farmers, preservationists and those hoping to grow our way back to a propsperous economy. The Governor's veto seems to be the start of a major effort on his part to raise taxes under the guise of tax restructuring. Growler readers learned a few days ago that the Governor doesn't favor "revenue neutral" tax restructuring. Even the dean of Arlington's Richmond delegation, Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, acknowledged to the Arlington County Civic Federation on March 4 that any tax restructuring should be "revenue neutral" since "the entire issue is too complex." According to the Washington Post, the House of Delegates is sure to override the veto, but Sunday evening, "over an Executive Mansion dinner of filet mignon and spinach pasta" the Governor wooed the Senate's 17 Democratic senators. Apparently it worked for at least one, Senator "Toddy" Puller of Fairfax, who now says, "I've learned more about (the legislation)." For information about the two bills involved (HB 2490 and SB 1123), visit the General Assembly's Legislative Information System. More information is available from Virginians for Repeal of the Death Tax.

March 20, 2003

Jeepers! Taxes Sure Are FUN!

Hey, boys and girls! Let's turn off the teevee reruns, put aside the boring video games, and learn about taxes the IRS way!

Feeling Undertaxed? Let ACTA help

Are you a generous, compassionate person who believes that government does not 'care' enough? Well, here is your chance to back up that conviction by donating your money to the state and county governments.

You can send donations to the Commonwealth of Virginia using this form, and have your name published here so all the world can see how much you care. For some odd reason, there are no names on this list. ;-(

A helpful ACTA member has designed a similar form that you can use to send your caring dollars to Arlington County.

What are you waiting for? There's compassion to be paid for!

In most cases, donations are tax deductible under IRC sec. 170(c)(1). Consult your tax advisor for details. ;-)

Small tax rate reductions still mean large tax increases

Assessments in Prince William County, like those in Arlington, provide county supervisors the opportunity to reap windfall increases in tax revenues. That is unless the elected supervisors reduce the real estate tax rate to the "lowered rate necessary to offset increased assessment." That language, and the tax rates involved, is in the legal notice required by state law. Arlington's was published in the March 18 Northern Virgnia Journal, but you can read the fine print in the Arlington County Manager's report to the County Board. James Young, a member of the Prince William County Taxpayers Alliance, writes in yesterday's Potomac News that the Republican chairs of their county board of supervisors and school board "posture as friends of the taxpayers whom they are soaking," while "busily endorsing candidates for other offices who are from the same tax-and-spend-us-into-oblivion school of fiscal mismanagement." Young correctly notes, "As usual, the problem is spending. And the differences between those already in or aspiring to public office appear not be to in whether they will tax and spend us into oblivion, but in who will do it the fastest."

March 19, 2003

Putting One's Money Where One's Mouth Is

We sometimes hear Concerned Citizens claim that they are "actually undertaxed, and would willingly pay more in taxes to maintain the services we all need."

Well, here's their chance! The Virginia Department of Taxation now has a special form (Form GFD) that those selfsame Concerned Citizens can fill out and mail in along with their checks to make voluntary donations to the General Fund.

Plus, the Department of Taxation website now features a list of General Fund donors who are willing to reveal their identities.

Hmm. I wonder why none of these folks' names are on that list...

March 18, 2003

Don't Tax You
Don't Tax Me

...Tax that beer drinker / Behind the tree.

Yes, Governor Mark Warner (D)has signed legislation almost everybody (except people who drink before driving) can get behind, slapping hefty new minimum fines on drunk drivers. (That is to say, drivers with a BAC of 0.08% or greater.)

First offense, $250. Second offense, $500. Third offense, $1000. Plus five days in the pokey if a minor is in the car.

Keeping Up With The Clubbers

Speaking of the Club For Growth, every ACTA member should take a look at its website and that of its affiliate, the Virginia Club For Growth.

These organizations are political in nature, and tend to support conservative Republicans, so be warned if you are not of that party persuasion. But they are also staunch tax-cutters and advocates of economic growth.

The Virginia Club's website is a bit outdated, sort of like ACTA's used to be...

Cut spending! Don't raise taxes!

In his Townhall.com column today, Jack Kemp explains the reasons for the current fiscal crisis ever so clearly. He writes, "The primary cause of the fiscal crisis in America at all levels is a weak economy, but the equally relevant cause is fiscal profligacy that has been accumulating for more than 15 years. From 1986 to 2000, state governments were on a spending binge of enormous proportion . . . Even with today's weak economy, research by Club for Growth President Stephen Moore and his associates concludes that staes currently would be $100 billion in the black if they had just restrained spending growth during the 1990s to the same rate as inflation plus the rate of population growth." Kemp then goes on to explain that raising taxes only "digs the fiscal hole deeper." He ends by quoting the 1933 words of John Maynard Keynes, one of the liberals' favorite economists, "A reduction of taxation will run a better chance than an increase of balancing the budget."

March 17, 2003

More on Governor's Plan to Hike Taxes

As Virginius notes below when he brought Peter Ferrara's column to the attention of Growler readers, the Governor, a Democrat, wants to use the opportunity to modernize Virginia's tax structure to increase taxes. Now, a leader in last year's fight against the proposed Northern Virgnia sales tax hike weighs in. Patrick McSweeney argues that "Republicans should go to the voters this fall promising to make (restructuring) a way to reduce the tax burden." For example, McSweeney argues, "The first Republican principle should be that the tax burden on the average family is already too high and should be reduced."

March 16, 2003

Appealing Your Property Tax Assessments

The New York Times contains an extensive article about the effort needed to challenge your property tax assessment. [You will have to register to access the article, but it is free.] According to the article, "Many strategies can be pursued." The article provides a great many resources for taxpayers who think the assessor overvalued their property. One of the resources mentioned by the NY Times is the guide, "How to Fight Property Taxes," from the National Taxpayers Union.

March 14, 2003

The Governor's Tax-Hike Scheme

PETER FERRARA has a column on "tax restructuring" in today's Northern Virginia Journal (link requires subscription). Excerpt:

As reported in the Post [and in Growls] on February 25, Warner plans to propose a "tax reform" plan in Virginia next year involving a major tax increase. Virginia needs more taxes to increase government spending more, Warner believes.

But how will he get the tax increase past the Republican majorities that now prevail in the state legislature?

Warner told the Post that some moderate Republicans facing primary challenges this summer have assured him privately that they will be his allies in the tax restructuring effort.

Warner actually didn't name these stealth tax-increase Republicans. But it is clear as a bell who they are. State Sen. Russell Potts, R-Winchester,), Senate President John Chichester, R-Fredericksburg, and Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, all serve on the Senate Finance Committee, with Chichester serving as chairman.

Plenty more details in that column, if you're a Journal website subscriber. If I can find a public copy, I'll post the link here as well.

Arlington County Parks Dept's 'Sustainable Budget'

When the Manager proposed his FY2004 budget in early February, there was a lot of self-congratulating about the proposed budget being one of providing 'continuing services,' which is budget slang for "there's only enough in this budget to do what we did last year plus enough to cover inflation." The Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, which is charged by the County Board to thoroughly review the budget, found the Parks Department's lacking. According to one FAACer, "To consider this a 'continuing services' budget is a myth," and then added, "It seems to be taking from lower-profile services to cover higher-profile services." Read the entire story in the Arlington Sun-Gazette.

March 13, 2003

Another Tax Bites the Dust

A proposal in Virginia's Hanover County to institute a meals tax died a fast death last night at the hands of the board of supervisors only two weeks after the county administration proposed it to balance the budget.

March 11, 2003

More Moran

Congressman Jim Moran (D) is taking lots of heat (in venues ranging from the Washington Post to National Review Online) over anti-Semitic remarks he made to a "town meeting" audience in Reston. But Watchdog readers know him better as one of Congress's biggest spenders. Moran is a member of the House Budget Committee and the House Appropriations Committee (referred to last week by President Bush in a throwaway remark as "the spenders"), and has rarely seen a tax or spending bill he didn't like.

Plus, the ethically challenged Moran is the ranking minority member of the Legislative Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. When Congress wants to spend money on itself, Moran's the go-to guy.

March 10, 2003

Tax more, waste more

Here's what County Manager Ron Carlee (the me, my, and I of the County Manager's memo) wants to do if the County Board hikes our taxes by 15%:

My Fiscal Year 2004 Proposed Budget is balanced at current tax rates. A number of strategic initiatives are also proposed which do not require additional tax support. However, a number of unfunded priorities have been identified for which additional funding would be needed. These priorities include, but may not be limited to, housing grants for homeowners, affordable housing investment, environmental health services, real estate assessment and administrative support staff, arts grants and living wage proposals for contractors.

I would recommend that ongoing funding would be needed to pay for these types of program enhancements, rather than any one-time funds identified as part of mid-year and/or third quarter reestimates. I think it is important to consider these unfunded priorities in conjunction with the advertisement of the tax rates for both real estate and personal property.

The proposed budget also reflects an increase of 15.2 % in the overall assessments of real estate for Calendar Year 2003. Attachment I provides more details on these changes.

The proposed budget allocates funding for the Schools based on the Revenue Sharing Agreement, 51.4% of net local tax revenues for the County, 48.6% for the Schools.

That's right, you got it. "Ongoing funding" - that is, high taxes forever - for
"arts grants," "living wage" projects, and other "priorities."

This reads more like something from ultraliberal Santa Cruz, California than Arlington, Virginia. We need to show these people the door, ASAP.

The tax rate should be 87 cents

On Saturday, March 15, the Arlington County Board will vote to advertise the real estate tax rate for Calendar Year 2003. The Manager is proposing the Board advertise a rate of $0.993 per $100 of assessed value, which is the current rate.

Two key pieces of information are buried in the Manager's memo to the Board, however. One is the "lowered tax rate" that is necessary to offset increased assessments. This rate is $0.871, and would produce the same amount of real estate tax as last year.

The second key piece of information is the "effective tax rate increase," which is the difference between the lowered tax rate and the proposed tax rate, i.e., $0.122 ($0.993 - $0.871), or 14.0%. This information is contained in Attachment V of the Manager's memo to the County Board, which you can find here.

March 04, 2003

Virginia is Marlboro Country

Philip Morris USA, the tobacco products subsidiary of Altria Group, Inc., is moving its headquarters from New York to Richmond. Mayor Mike Bloomberg (R) and the New York City Council may have overplayed their hands when they decided to ban smoking just about everywhere in New York (including bars and restaurants).

"This is a home run for Richmond," Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) said this morning. Smoke 'em if you got 'em, Richmonders.

Bill Gates Sr. wants to give away your money

He believes its just fine and dandy that we still have a federal Death Tax, which can take up to half of your hard-earned, already-taxed money away from your heirs and give it to the govmint instead.

He likes the Death Tax so much that he's written a book lauding it. But Bruce Bartlett's review whups Mr. Gates pretty seriously, and provides a good backgrounder on the repeal debate.

March 03, 2003

ACB Election - Tuesday Mar 11

WE REPORT, YOU DECIDE:

From Mike Clancy's (R) website:

   Fiscal Responsibility & Homeowners' Tax Relief

    - Stabilize skyrocketing, out-of-control real estate taxes.
    - Refocus budgetary resources to priority programs.
    - Responsible management of voter-approved bonds.

From Walter Tejada's (D) website:

   On Fiscal Responsibility:

   Walter Tejada will work to cut the property tax rate and to maintain Arlington's high bond rating, high quality services, and efficient government.