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August 27, 2004

Bottom Line is that Government Wants More Taxpayer Money

Yesterday, we pointed out how Arlington County assisted AHC, Inc. in acquiring the Gates of Arlington, now a highly subsidized, so-called affordable housing project, by threatening the use of eminent domain. According to a recent study (press release and full study) by the National Taxpayers Union, eminent domain often results from governments misusing "their power to pad the bottom line." The study's author says, "Such land-grab redevelopment schemes rarely serve the 'public good' necessary to justiffy eminent domain, and instead often lead to higher taxes, a reduced tax base, and further stagflation."

August 26, 2004

When $17 Million is not a Large Enough Subsidy for Affordable Housing

Two years ago, the Arlington County Board aided and assisted the Arlington Housing Cororation (AHC), Arlington's alternative to a public housing authority, in acquiring the Gates of Arlington, a 465-unit apartment complex.It aided the acquisition by threatening the use of eminent domain and assisted the acquisition by providing AHC a $17 million loan, including monies sitting in a county slush fund. The units were purchased with the understanding that a major renovation would be needed for as much as $30 million. According to today's Washington Post, about 100 low-income apartment residents turned out to protest plans to raise rents after the renovations are complete, even though a survey showed many of the residents could afford to pay the higher rents without the need for further subsidies from county taxpayers. The Post article cites county officials saying it could cost an addition $1 million to subsidize just 20 additional units.

August 25, 2004

Illegal Aliens Cost United States $10 Billion

Based upon a new study from the Center for Immigration Studies, the Reuters news agency reported today that "Illegal immigrants to the United States cost the federal government over $10 billion a year, but that figure would increase almost threefold if they were granted legal status." Citing the CIS report, Reuters said, "Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs . . . in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household." Changing their status would increase the cost threefold, however, since (m)ore would pay taxes but because the majority are poor and hold low-paying jobs, this would be vastly outweighed by the increased government welfare services they would consume."

August 22, 2004

No More Comments

We have reluctantly shut off the ability of readers to make comments on Growls' postings. Of the 285 comments posted so far, 97.6% have been (mostly sexual) spam.

August 20, 2004

Your Taxes at Work: VDOT Cost Overruns

Today's Virginian-Pilot reports that an audit report released Thursday shows the "Hampton Roads District recorded the highest cost increases for construction projects of any in Virginia." The paper adds, "Auditors found that over the past five years, the cost of completed road projects in Hampton Roads has been 24 percent higher, on average, than what had been estimated originally." This compares to a statewide average of 9.7 percent. The paper notes that organizational changes will occur within VDOT. To his credit, the VDOT commissioner, John Shucet, says, "VDOT is not going to get bigger as a result of anything we implemented . . . It may require different people. Job duties may change . . . but we won't create new positions."

August 19, 2004

How Much More Money Should the Public Schools Get?

Probably not a penny more if the public really knew how much the public schools already get. At least that's the conclusion of two researchers at the Manhattan Institute. In an op-ed in the July 2, 2004, New York Post (free registration required), Jay Greene and Marcus Winters, base their conclusions on a recent survey by the Educational Testing Service. Green and Winters say that Americans support more spending on education "only because most Americans don't know how much cashthe schools already get. And a new survey found when they hear how much public schools now spend per pupil, a clear majority think schools already have enough to do the job." For the record, the cost per pupil in the Arlington Public Schools is $15,397 (page 55 of the Schools' FY2005 proposed budget).

August 17, 2004

Believe It, Virginia, It's Still the Spending

In an op-ed earlier this month in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Delegate Mark Coles (R) first takes note of the improving Virginia economy, and then explains why the anti-taxers were correct in this past winter's budget debate in the General Assembly. Coles writes, "Throughout the extended General Assembly session, conservatives in the House, myself included, said the economy was in recovery, revenues were increasing, and tax increases proposed by the governor and the Senate were not needed. Not only were they not needd, we said, but they could actually be detrimental, since tax increases tend to be a drag on the economy. Turns out we were right about the recovery and revenues. I hope we are wrong about the negative impact on Virginia's economy." He continues, saying, "One would think that if the budget were managed properly, an 11 percent increase should have been sufficient . . . Over the years, Virginia's budget has grown by leaps and bounds, far in excess of our population growth and inflation." His conclusion: "Instead of government demanding more from the taxpayers, perhaps it is time for taxpayers to start demanding results from government for the huge sums they have already invested." Sounds like a politician who fully understands that government is continually seeking to reach further into our pockets.

August 11, 2004

Windfalls Keep on Rolling in for Commonwealth

As Growls reported a month ago, the state reported that revenues for the fiscal year ended June 30 with revenues higher than originally estimated. That windfall was large enough that if known, it could have obviated the need for Virginia's historic tax hike. Now comes Virginia's Lottery reporting a windfall of its own. According to this press release, they completed "a record-shattering year," producing profits of $408 million, which by law must go to K-12 public education. Those profits are $33 million higher than the year before. Which of the educrats' wishes will be purchased with this windfall? Only time will tell. For the story from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, click here.

August 10, 2004

Do 'Girlie Men' Politicians Understand Effect of Raising Taxes?

Most readers of Growls are well-aware of the historic tax increase which the 2004 General Assembly saddled onto Virginians, and the efforts by Governor Mark Warner (D) to obtain the votes of some GOP members of the House of Delegates to raise taxes. The headline in today's Washington Times took note of the GOP members' support of the Governor's efforts to raise taxes, "Warner lauds GOP rebels," although some may prefer calling them "Girlie Men' because of the manner they caved-in to raising taxes.

The merits of lower taxes was well-explained by Bruce Bartlett today in his column posted at Townhall.com. Bartlett notes that Americans have a higher per capita GDP, but also notes that Americans work significantly more hours than do the Europeans. He then points to a recent study by an economist at a Federal Reserve Bank showing that "Europe's higher taxes explain almost all the difference in labor force participation rates between Europe and here." This study "notes that when European tax levels were comparable to those here (in America), work hours were similar . . . but as Europe's taxes have risen, workers responded by working less." A concept too difficult for the average politician to grasp? It's probably easier for most to raise taxes, and satisfy special interests.

August 09, 2004

Saying You're a 'Fiscal Conservative' Doesn't Make It So

Shortly after the November 2003 elections, Virginia Governor Mark Warner (D) ponied out his proposal for raising Virginians' taxes. At one point during the 2004 General Assembly session, he even called himsel "the conservative alternate" apparently because Senator John Chichester (R) proposed raising taxes even higher. However, as an editorial in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch pointed out, it was neither a compliment to either the Governor or the Senator. However, the folks at Newsweek apparently took the joke seriously. According to an editorial in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, "If double-digit budget hikes and one of the biggest tax increases in state history earn the label 'conservative, imagine what it takes for those at Newsweek to rate somebody a liberal."

August 07, 2004

Why Virginia's Politicians Didn't Let Citizens Decide Budget Impasse

As days passed this past winter, and there was no apparent resolution to what became the historic budget impasse in the 2004 General Assembly, former governors Doug Wilder (D) and George Allen (R) joined in a call for a referendum in which Virginia's citizens could decide whether there should be higher taxes. We thought that was a good idea on March 2 when we growled about it since the people of Alabama and Oregon had already voted down tax increases proposed by elitist politicians. Voters in Ohio provided further evidence this week that when given the opportunity to voice their position on higher taxes, their judgment more often than not is to vote against higher levels of taxation. According to Thursday's Cincinnati Enquirer, eight of 10 school issues in the Cincinnati area lost while statewide about 3/4 of the 103 school issues were defeated. Since Governor Warner (D) and Senator John Chiechester (R), who led the drive for higher taxes, knew that a referendum on higher taxes would be soundly defeated, Virginians were never given the opportunity to have their voices heard through a referendum. The headline in the Cincinnati paper said it all, i.e., "simmering anger hurt tax levies."

August 06, 2004

Understanding the Meaning of 'Irregularities'

Today's Washington Post is reporting that Arlington County's pension fund manager has resigned after an audit disclosed 'irregularities.' The word 'irregularity' may not have a precise accounting definition, but thankfully, the Post article provides two examples. One was a bill for $619.58 from the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A second was for $1,111.86 charge at the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, California. The president of the fund's board of trustees "declined to discuss the terms of the settlement and whether restitution for the estimated $10,000 in mispent funds would be (re)paid." In early July, we reported that the fund manager had been placed on "indefinite leave."

August 05, 2004

Tax Raisers Can't Have It Both Ways

Taxpayers will likely hear a lot about taxing the rich from one of the presidential candidates from now until November 2. Indeed, John Kerry (D) has already promised to raise the taxes of those with earnings above $200,000 a year. A new study from the Tax Foundation, released today, says that most "people in the top one percent of earners are business owners and entrepreneurs, not just high-income individuals with trivial business income on the side." According to the Tax Foundation, "so many businesses now report their profits on individual tax forms instead of corporate forms, recent cuts in the top individual tax rates provided an extra bang for economic growth and hiring." It seems evident that tax-and-spenders can't have it both ways. Either you tax the 'rich' and reduce economic activity and the number of jobs, or you admit your folly of trying to tax the 'rich.' The above link accesses the press release, but includes access to the complete study. On June 30, we growled about the large numbers of tax filers who pay no income taxes based upon an earlier analysis by the Tax Foundation.

August 04, 2004

Emancipating America from the Income Tax/Fixing the 'Unmitigated Mess'

In his autobiography, "Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years in Coaching and Politics,"coming out this week, Dennis Haster, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, urges overhauling the Federal tax system.Today's Washington Times reports the Speaker's new book says, "tax reform must be a priority for the next Congress.The paper notes the Speaker told the Associated Press, "People ask me if I'm really calling for the elimination of the IRS, and I say, 'I think that's a good thing to do for future generations.'" The paper noted the Speaker "doesn't advocate any particular tax measure," but "has complained for years" about the enormous waste in tax preparation.

The Washington Times also reports, "The Democratic National Committee in a statement released Monday said the flat tax would squeeze the middle class and favor the rich."

One such tax proposal is the Fair Tax (sponsored by Americans for Fair Taxation), which had 51 sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives when we last checked. In addition, the Cato Institute published Policy Analysis 272 in which the authors demonstrated "how the individual and corporate income tax, the capital gains tax, the estate and gift taxes, and non-trust fund taxes all could be replaced with a national sales tax."

August 03, 2004

Fiscal Restraint in the Schools Starts With the Proper Attitude

Readers of the Washington Post were greeted to a plesant surprise today with one headline on page 1 of the paper's Metro section. A story about a meeting between Fairfax County's new schools superintendent and the county board of supervisors was headlined, "Fairfax Superintendent Told to Practice Thrift." In the accounting profession, good internal control of operations starts with 'tone at the top.' In their meeting, which the Washington Times said was the first such meeting in 17 years, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Gerald Connolly (D) told the Superintendent to "stretch every dollar to the max," and also said, "The burden is very heavy on our local taxpayers." That's a far cry from Arlington County where it seems to be the Schools are told "here's the check, there will be more later, and we don't even need to see your budget."

August 02, 2004

Virginia Teachers Union and School Boards Still Not Satisfied

Even after getting a good chunk of the money from the $1.4 billion tax hike passed by the Virginia General Assembly this spring, the Virginia teachers union and the school board association aren't satisfied. According to the July 30 edition of Update, published by the Virginia Municipal League (VML), the Virginia Education Association (VEA) and the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) "told the state Board of Education that local governments have cut their funding of K-12 education." VML noted that in fiscal year 2003, local governments "spent $2.9 billion more for education than required by the state." For example, information provided to ACTA for FY02 shows that Arlington's "required local effort" was $64.4 million. However, the Arlington School Board budgeted $203.8 million for operations, or 216.3% above what was needed to meet state standards.

Anticipating the windfall from the state, some local governments used money previously budgeted for education to fund local projects or to give local tax relief. That upset the teachers union so much that the VEA president called it a 'travesty,' reported VML's Update. Since VEA cooperated with VML and the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo), lobbying arms for Virginia's cities and counties, respectively, in the spring to get the General Assembly to hike taxes, VML and VACo are now "conducting a survey of localities with school divisions to determine the degree to which localities reduced local support for education."