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May 28, 2003

Another State Balances Budget without Increasing Taxes

Hurrah to the Texas legislature for proving wrong those who called for new taxes to balance the state's 2004-2005 budget. According to comments from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, "Texans are applauding state leaders who came to Austin on the promise that services could be delivered, a $10 billion shortfall overcome, and the state's economic competitiveness enhanced without raising taxes . . . Naysayers on the editorial pages and other proponents of high taxes said it could not be done."

May 23, 2003

Virginia Citizens Want Teeth in Travel Policy

Less than a month after "growling" about the lavish spending habits of Virginia county supervisors at their annual conference last November at the Homestead resort, citizens of Isle of Wight County in southeastern Virginia are calling for more teeth in their county's travel policy. The citizens learned their supervisors were among the biggest spenders at the annual conference. Now, the Newport News Daily Press reports the Isle of Wight travel policy exempts elected officials while many other counties policies apply the same rules to both employees and elected officials. Conclusion? County employees can eat cake, too!

May 22, 2003

Some General Assembly Members Party on Taxpayers' Dime

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the spending habits of Virginia county poohbahs during their annual conference last November at the Homestead resort. Now, its 40 members of the General Assembly, and their families, set to participate in a fun-filled weekend in Virginia Beach starting May 30. Thanks to the generosity of the Virginia Beach City Council, that city's taxpayers are picking-up $10,000 of the cost. All the gory details are in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch. According to the president of the VB Taxpayers Alliance, "Why should a municipality have to underwrite the expense for members of the General Assembly to come and learn information about our city? Post script: a member of the VBTA informs ElGrowlerGrande the VB City Council's generosity with taxpayer dollars amounted to $25,000, and not the $10,000 reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. What, they're trying to make pikers of the Arlington County Board?

May 16, 2003

When It's Not Your Money: Congress at Work!

More of your tax dollars may be headed down the proverbial rathole if the "Calling for 2-1-1 Act of 2003" is passed. Co-sponsored by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) and New York Senator Hillary Clinton (D), the bill would provide $200 million "to establish a nationwide community help line." Thanks to Michelle Malkin, taxpayers now know about this bipartisan effort to suck more taxpayer money into the bureaucratic netherworld. According to Malkin, "The federalized phone service would help callers find the 'essential services they need.'" But wait, Malkin reports that 2-1-1 call centers operate in 21 states, funded by state and local government, corporations, and United Way. Further, why do we need 2-1-1? Don't people know about the blue pages in the phone book? Taxpayers unite! Else your wallets will soon be empty.

May 11, 2003

Education spending: Need for Accountability!

A May 2, 2003 op-ed in USA Today argued that education is still a national priority, and that Americans are more than willing to open their wallets to pay for it. One week later, the paper published ACTA's letter to the editor (the letter is not available at USA Today's website, but an Adobe .pdf version is). In the letter, ACTA's president says the education "tax and spenders" need to explain why large increases in spending have not produced the hoped-for results. For example, Wise cites a recent speech at Harvard by Education Secretary Paige where Paige points out that since 1970, spending has increased 75% but achievement remains flat. Or an actual experiment, documented in a Cato Institute study, where a federal judge ordered state and local taxpayers to provide a "cost-is-no-object" education plan to integrate the Kansas City schools.

Cavuto's Common Sense on Taxes

Neil Cavuto, who hosts 'Your World with Cavuto' on FoxNews asks why do states and cities invariably raise taxes to meet deficits rather than "using a little common sense." He notes that real estate taxes are up 18% in New York City and subway fares up 23%. Plus a myriad of other fee increases. "It seems as if you use it, they tax it." He asks, "Would it kill government -- at any level -- to come up with any original thought?" He suggests the bureaucrats give people more choices, e.g., rather than raising bus fares 30%, perhaps people would choose 30% fewer buses on their routes. However, he says that given a choice, most people would choose fewer services rather than higher taxes. A message here for the Arlington Pooh Bahs?

May 08, 2003

Do as I say, and not as I do!

There were many reasons why the Arlington County Board could not reduce the real estate tax rate more than it did (think money for special interests), but one in particular was awarding so-called living wages to selected groups of county employees and employees in Arlington's private sector. The coalition that lobbied the Board included union workers and at least one Green Party activist. Never mentioned during the year-long effort by the Arlington Living Wage Coalition was ACORN -- Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, but ACORN is perhaps the nation's foremost proponent of the living wage. A TechCentral article two days ago details how ACORN preaches out of one side of its mouth, but its internal practices flow out of the other side of its mouth. The Tech Central article is especially useful because it provides links to valuable resources for understanding the living wage movement. Stay tuned for more on Arlington's superwage -- better yet, become an ACTA member, and read more about Arlington's potlatch County Board.

May 07, 2003

Don't Like Tax Relief? Give It Back!

It's now Americans for Tax Reform (Adobe's .pdf reader required) challenging "mega-rich investor Warren Buffett," to pledge that he will not accept the tax relief provided by President Bush's tax relief plan that Buffett "has fought tooth and nail against" by signing ATR's "Anti-Hypocrisy Pledge." In a somewhat similar effort, ACTA's bloggers first called on those who think Arlington and Virginia taxpayers are undertaxed to send a check to Arlington's Treasurer or to contribute to Virginia's Tax Me More Fund in March. The Virginia Department of Taxation will even list your name as a contributor if you so choose. When will the tax-and-spenders stand up and put their money where their mouths are?

May 06, 2003

All Virginia County Supervisors NOT Equally Profligate

At its April 26 meeting, the Arlington County Board cut (shaved?) the real real estate tax rate by 1.5 cents (just over 1.5%) despite skyrocketing revenues from real estate taxes resulting from more than a 17% increase in residential assessments, still leaving the average homeowner with real estate tax bills up by 15.5%. Unlike the Arlington County Board, supervisors in Bedford County responded to "a countywide 14.5 percent increased on assessments" by dropping the tax rate from 73 cents to 66 cents (8.2%) per $100 of assessed value, says today's Roanoke Times.

May 04, 2003

An Experiment in Whether More Money Results in Better Education

Supporters of public education say that more money is needed to improve the schools, and based upon recent polling data, they apparently have convinced the public of that. On the other hand, critics say that throwing money at the schools establishment doesn't improve student performance. Fortunately, there is a real-life experiment that proves the critics may be correct. According to a 1998 Cato Institute policy analysis (you will need Adobe Acrobat to read the entire policy analysis, but an executive summary is available), "a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it" in order "(t)o improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation." Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil (in 1998 dollars), which was more money than any of the 280 largest school districts in the county. That money bought higher teacher salaries, smaller class sizes, and such amenities as an Olympic sized pool, a zoo, and a model United Nations. However, the Cato reports, "The results were dismal, Test scores did not rise, the black-white gap did not diminish, and there was less, not more integration."

May 02, 2003

Postal Service IG Misses Waste in Own Office

The job of the US Postal Service's Inspector General is to make the mail system more efficient and cost-effective. When it comes to waste and abuse in her own office, however, apparently waste is ok as long as the Inspector General is part of the fun and games being played. In a March 9, 2003 special investigative report, the NY Daily News reports on the goings on at so-called "annual recognition conferences." According to this news story, "At a so-called Summerfest for the Denver field office" in 2001, "two dozen staffers wrapped each other from head to toe in toilet paper, aluminum foil, straws, and pipe cleaners." After being approached by past and present staffers, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley has launched a probe of the Post Office's IG, including its management by $142,500 a year Inspector General, Karla Corcoran.