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January 31, 2004

Virginia Needs to Control Spending Before Raising Taxes

Three days ago, Growls pointed out the details of Virginia's spending problem. I included links to the work of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance that refuted the mythology that Governor Mark Warner (D) and previous General Assemblies had cut $6 billion of budget bloat. Rather, spending in Virginia has increased $2.5 billion since Governor Warner came to office. According to a Virgnia Viewpoint authored by Virginia Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R), and posted by the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, argues that "what Virginia really needs is not 'tax reform,' but spending reform. Hard, honest, spending caps - a Taxpayers' Bill of Rights - would finally put Richmond's taxaholics on the wagon, and force them to set priorities, and live within their means, just like Virginia's families and businesses."

January 30, 2004

When will Justice Ginsburg Warn about Big Government and Overtaxation?

"Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said (yesterday) that people concerned about losing freedom to government anti-terrorism should speak out," reports an AP story posted on Yahoo's news site. Now, when will Justice Ginsburg warn us about the dangers of big government and overtaxation? We look forward to her pronouncements. Growls thanks Drudge for first posting the Supreme Court Justice's warning on his website.

January 29, 2004

Assessments Continue to 'Shock 'n Awe' Arlington Property Owners

If the Arlington County Board does not significantly lower the real estate tax rate in Arlington, county property owners will see their real estate taxes go up 74.2% in four years. That's according to this week's Arlington Connection newspaper in an article that quotes several Arlington homeowners and realtors. In a helpful table of average prices and tax rates, the Connection notes that the County Board would have to lower the real estate tax rate to 83.6 cents per $100 of assessed value (almost a 15% cut) to offset the increased assessment on the average single-family residence. Since the Board only lowered the rate by 3 cents in 2002 when assessments went up 16.6%, such a significant reduction is not likely unless property owners bring a great deal of pressure to bear on the five County Board members. To contact the Board, use the link at the right to obtain phone numbers and addresses.

Remember: assessments don't raise taxes, politicians raise taxes!

January 28, 2004

Antiquated tax system? No, it's spending that's out of control!

Politicians such as Governor Mark Warner (D) who are beating the drums to raise taxes, under the guise of tax reform, describe the current system as being so antiquated. Don't buy that argument, though. What he, and his tax-and-spend buddies both in government and big business don't seem to understand is that since coming to power in January 2002, state spending has increased by $2.5 billion, despite claims they've scrubbed the budget by $6 billion. This mythology is thoroughly documented by the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance in two separate web documents (see their tax bulletin and press release). In addition, the General Assembly's House Appropriation Committee outlined a series of alternatives that legislators could use to cut the budget without the need to raise taxes. Some were described in last Friday's Washington Times. Finally, this past Sunday, state Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R) defined the real problem in a Washington Post op-ed in the paper's Outlook section. He wrote, "Between 1992 and 2002, state government grew at a whopping annual rate of 8.2 percent, while personal income grew by only 4.1 percent annually. Before raising taxes, Virginia's General Assembly needs to learn how to control it's urge to spend our hard-earned dollars.

January 27, 2004

Hogtieing Politicians?

Yesterday's Northern Virginia Journal featured an article about politicans who sign pledges that they will not vote for tax increases, and the difficulties some have in abiding by the pledge. According to the article, "Forty-one of the 140 cirremt Virginia legislators, including 10 Northern Virgnians, have signed the "Taxpayer Protection Pledge." The pledge is administered by Americans for Tax Reform. The article focuses on one particular politician, Senator Russell Potts ((R) from Winchester who has co-patroned Republican Senator John Chichester's bill that would raise Virginians' taxes even more than Democratic Governor Warner's well-publicized tax increase (see several entries below). Potts signed the anti-tax pledge in March of 1997, but, according to the Journal, he "has introduced a measure to hike the cigarette tax from 2.5 cents to $1 per pack." A copy of the pledge and the list of Virginia's pledge signers are available at the ATR website.

January 20, 2004

Shocking 2004 Real Estate Assessment Notices

Arlington's 2004 real estate assessment notices were dumped in the mail last Friday with some residents receiving them on Saturday. Most residents are probably still in shock. Overall, residential assessments increased by 17.0%, but ranged from a low of 12.3% in some areas of north Arlington to as much as much as 25.1% in much of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. This week's edition of the Arlington Sun-Gazette (online edition) has the story on their front-page. Although the paper notes such increases are "likely to lead to calls for . . . (a) lower tax rate," the paper notes that "Arlington government leaders have chosen to emphasize to residents that they are paying lower tax rates than those in surrounding jurisdictions."

It is more important than ever this year that Arlington homeowners join ACTA members in demanding the County Board significantly lower the real estate tax rate to fully offset the increase in assessments. Remember that the assessor doesn't raise your taxes; rather it is the County Board that raises real estate taxes when they set the real estate tax rate.

You can research the real estate assessments in your neighborhood at the county's website. You can learn more about fighting your property taxes in a publication ("How to Fight Property Taxes") from the National Taxpayers Union, headquartered in Alexandria.

January 19, 2004

Plundering Taxpayers

Waste, fraud, and abuse are rampant at the federal level. The unbeliever need only read several days of blog entries at the Citizens Against Government Waste website. Closer to home, such stories are less frequent. An editorial in the January 16 Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, though, highlights a case from Spotssylvania County, which they say is the largest Medicaid fraud case ever prosecuted by the state attorney general's office ($2.5 million). According to information at the Virginia Attorney General's website, as much as 10% of Virginia's $2.3 billion Medicaid budget is subject to waste, fraud, and abuse. According to the Free Lance-Star, "Virginia has 30 people working in the AG's office in the Medicaid fraud unit, which handles some $12 million in program rip-offs per year. Assuming that 10% estimate is correct (and it comes from a May 1992 U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) report), the AG's office is catching only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to catching Medicare/Medicaid rip-off artists in Virginia.

Suspect Medicaid fraud? Contact the AG's Medicaid fraud unit above, or call 1-800-371-0824.

January 14, 2004

Talk Back to Governor Warner

The 2004 General Assembly officially opened earlier today. This evening Governor Warner gave legislators his keynote address, and "exhorted" them "to pass his tax reform plan," according to NewsChannel8. Let's stop right there! It is NOT a tax reform plan, but rather a plan to increase the taxes of hard-working Virginians. NewsChannel8 contributes to the governor's myths, e.g., they reported the governor said he had already cut "close to $6 billion in budget shortfalls over the past two years." That is simply not the case. Based upon numbers from the latest report of the General Assembly's own Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance (FCTA) reports that is just another of the myths surrounding Governor Warner's marketing of his plan to increase taxes. According to a FCTA press release, "Since Governor Warner took office in January 2002, state spending has increased by $2.5 billion, from $23.5 billion in FY2002 to $26 billion in 2004." In an interview later in the evening on NewsChannel8, Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R) said Virginia's state government "has to live within its means," and that there is "a spending crisis, not a tax crisis." NewsChannel8 also interviewed Arlington County Board's current chairman, Barbara Favola (D), after the governor's speech. Some of Ms. Favola's remarks included saying that Virginians "are not by any stretch overtaxed and also that taxes need to be raised if Virginians "want ti be a first-class state."

Sign the NoTaxHike petition: You can talk back to Governor Warner by signing a petition posted by the NoTaxHike coalition Tell the Governor that state taxes are high enough. The website is sponsored by Virginia State Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R).

January 11, 2004

Getting Behind the Numbers of Governor Warner's Tax Plan

To build support for his plan to raise taxes by about $1 billion annually, Virginia Governor Mark Warner claims that 65% percent of Virginia's taxpayers would benefit from his tax plan. However, thanks to Jim Bacon, publisher of Bacon's Rebellion, Virginians have a have better understanding of the numbers that support the governor's plan. Since "(t)he numbers struck some observers as improbable," Bacon met with John Bennett, Virginia's Finance Secretary, for an extended conversation about both the numbers and the assumptions behind those numbers. According to Bacon, "The 65-percent number accurately reflects those portions of the tax plan that can be measured but omits significant portions -- totalling $175 million, equivalent to 36 percent of total net impact -- whose effects cannot be measured. Change the assumptions and the "65 percent" number evaporates." For the detailed numbers, and their impact on Governor Warner's plan to raise Virginians' taxes, Bacon provides a detailed table with the numbers for firscal years 2004 through 2008.

January 10, 2004

One view of whether taxpayer support of the "arts" is plain thievery

According to libertarian talk-show host, Neal Boortz, "There are few areas of government abuse that infuriate me more than does spending on the so-called "arts." Boortz adds, "Every time a politician votes to dump a load of taxpayer money into the artistic community, that politician is telling you and every other taxpayer that it is his considered opinion that the government needs that money to spend on the arts community more than you need it to spend on such things as health care, home payments, debt reduction and your children's education. Unabridged arrogance."

January 08, 2004

California's Governor Understands: It's the Spending

In his first major speech, California's new governor, Arnold Schwarzengegger, "reiterated his opposition to raising taxes." In a NewsMax.com wire story yesterday, Governor Schwarzenegger was quoted saying, "The fact of the matter is that we do not have a tax crisis, we do not have a budget crisis, we have a spending crisis." That is very much the situation here in Virginia where Governor Mark Warner wants to raise Virginians taxes by $1 billion a year, but where over the past two decades, the growth in spending has increased 57% faster than the rate of inflation and population growth. Can Virginians exchange our Governor Warner for California's Governor Schwarzenegger?

January 06, 2004

Arlington County Board Justifies Further Plundering of Taxpayers

On New Year's Day last week, the County Board continued a tradition of holding their organizational meeting. As part of that tradition, the chairman identifies special initiatives that he or she will emphasize during the year. (Since these intiatives generally require taxpayer funding, and since the chairman is generally up for reelection later in the year, the more cynical taxpayer might stop and ask whether they are left holding the bag for the chairman's reelection, but we'll leave the answer for another day.) The five "priority areas" the Board chairman chose for 2004 were: 1) economic sustainability, essentially working to raise state taxes by restructuring the state tax code and establishing a conference center in the county; 2) pushing projects to implement something called "Walk Arlington;" 3) pushing more so-called affordable housing; 4) a patchwork of actions called "investing in children;" and, finally, 5) greater civic involvement. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for the chairman to price out the cost of those initiatives. Taxpayers can read the complete text of the chairman's statement, the county's press release, or the other Board members' statements, which were generally supportive of the chairman. Not surprisingly, the chairman made no mention that county spending has increased 20% over the past two years while inflation has increased only 5.4% over that same period. Nor did she mention that when real estate assessment increases are announced later this month, the average assessment on the average residential property is likely to increase by 16.8%. These are not our numbers. Rather the financial numbers come from Arlington County while the inflation numbers come from the federal government's Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, the need for the county to establish a civic engagement institute is questionable since the county already has a strong network of civic activists, neighborhood associations, and a civic federation. This was pointed out by ACTA's president who also serves as secretary of the Arlington County Civic Federation in the January 2 Washington Post. For further details on these numbers, contact ACTA's president.