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October 30, 2004

Governor Warner Starts with Wrong Premise

Yersterday's Richmond Times-Dispatch features comments by Virginia's Governor Mark Warner (D) made during his monthly radio show. The newspaper begins, "Despite a budget surplus estimated to be $700 million or more, the governor warned the GOP-deominated legislature yesterday against going on a shopping spree for new programs." Unfortunately, no where in the article do they report the governor acknowledging the rightful owners of the surplus that he warns legislators about. That's right, governor, you should start with the premise that the surplus belongs to Virginia's taxpayers. We're not sure the politicians would spend it more wisely, but at least it would acknowledge the rightful owners. Visit the Governor Warner's office, and send him a message.

October 28, 2004

Helping Liberals Understand the Concept of 'Paying Your Fair Share'

During the three presidential primaries this fall, how many times did you hear Senator John Kerry (D) talk about the need for the rich to pay their 'fair share,' or some such variant? We have growled on several occasions about the share of income taxes Americans pay accoridng to income levels, but liberals and their leftist brethren never seem to grasp the concept that the rich already pay their fair share. The problem for those on the left is describeed thusly by Gerald Dudley in a column posted today at The American Thinker, "The left, which often seems obsessed with equality of outcome, regardless of effort, talent, or merit, makes one huge exception to this imperative: tax payments." Then he asks, "Is that fair?" Dudley notes that data is readily available for any American to test whether "the middle class tax filers are actually subsidizing the tax responsibility of the 'rich.' Rather than scream about the rich not paying their 'fair share,' the left should ask why government is so greedy. In Arlington County, they can start their research at the Courthouse.

October 27, 2004

Just Talk, or Can Arlington County Do It, Too?

News out of Prince William County is their Board of Supervisors took action yesterday "to keep any future property tax increases below 6 percent," as reported in today's Washington Post. Surely Arlington County can do better since it is a "self-proclaimed ". . . world-class residential, business, and tourist location in the world's most influential region . . ." As the Post noted in its Metro section, Prince William County "has raised taxes repeated to pay for new schools, roads and other services in the fast growing county. While supervisors have reduced the tax rate in recent years, rising property values have meant big percentage increases in homeowners' tax bills." As we reported a few days ago, Arlington County Manager admitted in a September 8 memo that county spending has been growing at a 7.4% clip since the late 1990's, or in his words, "The challenge we face is the long-term economic sustainability of the community." It doesn't appear the County Board's chair is ready to sign-off on capping property tax revenue increases at 6%, though. At a candidates' debate this evening, she was quick to point out that Prince William receives more from the state than does Arlington. Poor excuse, but that seems to be her position.

October 25, 2004

Arlington County Still Excluded from Virginia Democracy

Yes! Another chance to talk about how Arlington's political elite slipped a tax noose around the neck of Arlington taxpayers. Next Tuesday, voters in Hanover County will vote on a 4% meals tax, according to today's Richmond Times-Dispatch. As we wrote a few days ago, Arlington County voters were prevented from voting by legislative maneuvering (a floor amendment allowing Arlington's County Board to avoid a referendum if the Board voted unanimously for the tax) in the General Assembly. Never the less, Henrico County's bureaucrats use the same, sorry logic to justify the tax. For example, they say that $1 million of the $2.5 million expected to be generated by the tax "would be paid by commuters and visitors to Hanover." Gee, that sounds like what Arlington poobahs tell us when we complain about the meals tax.

October 24, 2004

Democracy in Maine: Voters to Consider Property Tax Cap

In next week's elections, Maine's citizens will vote on "whether the state should adopt a California-style tax cap that limits taxes to 1 percent of a property's assessed value," according to yesterday's Washington Times. The article notes that Maine's taxes are among the nation's highest, and says there will be about a half-dozen similar referendums on ballots next week. Virginia has its own group interested in a California-style cap on real estate property taxes. The group is call Virginians Overtaxed on Residences (VOTORS). Learn more about VOTORS' at their website.

October 22, 2004

The 'Visions' of Arlington County Board Members

One of Thomas Sowell's recent columns talked about the 'tyranny of visions,' particularly the visions of zealots and similar do-gooders. These people never seem to understand that all the 'Good Things' they want have costs, and "notions like trade-offs and diminishing returns seldom deter zealots . . . however costly or counterproductive it may be for others." Sowell's column came to mind when we read NewsChannel8's story yesterday about the 69% jump (from $450,000 each to $761,000 each) in the estimated cost of the canopies for Metro's escalators. Much of the higher cost stems from a more "attractive design," which Arlington's member on Metro's Board of Directors explained as, "People wanted something that is more of a statement." Rather than sending Metro management back to rebidding for a cheaper and more utilitarian canopy, the same visionary said, "We now need to go back and find more dollars to support (more canopies for) more escalators." But hey, it's only the money of the taxpayers.

October 21, 2004

Another Government, but the Same Greedy Meals Tax Scam

One reason Arlington County's grand poobahs may like the significant turnover of residents is that it reduces the collective memory of Arlington citizens. The effort of the Courthouse Gang's brethren in Isle of Wight County, detailed in yesterday's Virginian Pilot, provides an opportunity to remind Arlington citizens of how Arlington's political elite slipped the noose of a meals tax around our necks. When the meals tax was being debated in the General Assembly, the late Senator Warren Stambaugh (D) managed to add a floor amendment, which enabled the Arlington County Board to avoid having Arlington citizens vote in a referendum since he knew the Board would vote unanimously (key legislative provision) to implement the meals tax. Like their NoVaville breathren, Isle of Wight County poobahs are being disingenuous about the the meals tax. According to the Virginian Pilot, the Administrator says, "We're just trying to be on a level playing field with our municipal neighbors" whose politicians don't need citizen approval to collect the meals tax. Or his deputy who said, "We're trying to capture revenue from people who visit but don't live here." Although liberals like to blame anti-taxers as the greedy ones, this sure sounds like government greed to me.

October 19, 2004

Activists, Zealots and the 'Good Things' They Do

ACTA members know the newsletter editor is a special fan of Thomas Sowell, based upon the frequency with which he sprinkles quotes from Sowell's writings throughout the Watchdog. Sowell recently completed another installment about the "tyranny of visions," and it is rich with insights that are likely to make it into ACTA's newsletters. In his October 15 column, posted at Townhall.com, Sowell writes about California's "busybodies with a vision of the world in which it is necessary for them to force other people to do Good Things." A recent ruling requiring motion sensors in new or remodeled homes draws his ire before writing, "Good Things have costs, often costs out of all proportion to whatever good they might do. But notions like trade-offs and diminishing returns seldom deter zealots, whose own egos are served by their zealotry in imposing their vision, however costly or counterproductive it may be for others."

October 18, 2004

Listen, Mainstream Media, Taxes Not Cut Enough

In yet another example of liberal bias by the so-called mainstream media, they have given little notice to comments by the new economics Nobel Laureate, Edward C. Prescott, that President Bush's (R) tax cuts of the past four years were quite small despite the "tax-policy bromides by his opponent John Kerry (D). In an op-ed posted last Friday at Tech Central Station, John Berthoud, President, National Taxpayers Union, discusses the work of Dr. Prescott on the subject. Berthoud notes that according to the winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, "Tax rates were not cut enough." As evidence, he notes the Bush tax cuts will average 0.44% of GDP compared to tax cuts of John F. Kennedy (2.0%) and Ronald Reagan (3.3%).

October 17, 2004

Arlington's Elite Experiment with Taxpayers' Money

According to the October 14 edition of the weekly Sun-Gazette, Arlington County has spent at least $140,000 for a 'day-labor pavilion' on South Four Mile Run to help "mostly Latino" day laborers. However, Barbara Favola (D), chairman of the Arlington County Board, told residents of the South Arlington Barcroft neighborhood, "It has not been the best marriage we ever created." The paper noted she also told residents at a 'candidates' night' that workers "don't want to be corralled in one area." Not to worry, though, the Sun-Gazette reported, "Favola said that if the day-laborer situation in Sourth Arlington could be made a success, it could be replicated in other parts of the county." Ah yes, the 'good things' the elites do for the rest of us.

October 16, 2004

Arlington County and Newport News: Two of a Kind

City poohbahs in Newport News are looking to borrow $55 million to help build a conference center and parking garage. Unfortunately, according to today's Newport News Daily Press, that debt could push the city further into debt than their budget guidelines recommend. Not to worry says their city manager who "expects things to go well. He characterized the report as one that overemphasized potential expenses and underplayed potential revenues to show Newport News' financial strength to analysts." Gee, that sounds much like Arlington County's grand poohbahs, according to a story about Arlington County's debt levels in this week's Arlington Sun-Gazette. In this story, "County officials told Civic Federation members that all their projections are based on conservative estimates." Take your choice: 'two of a kind' or 'birds of a feather flock together.'

October 15, 2004

Arlington County's Latest Effort to Waste Your Taxes

Would someone provide the County Board a short lesson in how many news options the private sector provides Arlingtonians? It seems that network news, cable news channels, two national daily papers, one local daily paper, two weekly papers, and one regional business paper isn't enough for the Courthouse Gang. According to this press release from the county's office of spinning, the grand poohbahs believe we need five minutes each hour on one of Arlington's guvmint television channels. If anyone was wondering if the Manager's September 8 letter about budget priorities (see our recent growling) means anything, they got their answer with the announcement that county apparitchiks will be providing these five-minute news segments. Wasn't it Lenin who taught the world that controlled government propaganda was his first priority?

October 11, 2004

Taxpayers Set to Further Subsidize Tobacco Farmers

Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute writes about tobacco legislation being considered in a House-Senate conference that will "hand billions to tobacco producers and extend Food and Drug Administration rules to cigarettes." He provides a short history of how tobacco allotments were started during the Great Depression, and essentially used "government to transfer wealth from one's neighbor. Farmers came up with a complex system of loans, support payments, marketing order, conservation controls, and even cash not to produce." Bandow takes on both Democratic and Republican legislators in this column, and asks the most important question: "why do growers deserve relief at taxpayer expense?" His answer is that "Farm subsidies never made sense. People deserve help because they are poor, not because they grow tobacco, wheat, or sugar." He concludes by quoting Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning (R) complaint that, "My growers are in dire straits and they need help," while Bandow responds, "So? Lots of Americans are in distrress. Why are tobacco farmers -- actually allotment holders -- entitled to seize their neighbors' hard-earned wealth."

October 10, 2004

'Dwindling Value of Personal Responsibility'

In the Outlook section of today's Washington Post, Melanie Scarborough describes another giveaway of taxpayer money. She writes about Virginia's FAMIS program (Family Access to Medical Insurance Security), which she says "allows middle-class parents to foist the expense of their children's medical care onto the state's taxpayers." The program is available to parents earning as much as $37,700 -- 200% of the poverty limit for a family of four. She notes that "no one seems to question whether the additional tax burden is necessary. It has become an article of faith that private health insurance is unaffordable," and then cites examples of how inexpensive health insurance for children can be. After noting that Governor Warner (D) boasts of making it easier to enroll in FAMIS, Scarborough says there should be two additional questions on the application, i.e., whether the family subscribes to cable television and whether they have a cell phone. If so, the parents are spending on nonessentials, and thus shifting their responsiblity onto the backs of all Virginians.

October 08, 2004

Two of Five County Board Members Seem to Agree with Manager

Last Saturday, we congratulated the County Manager for becoming a fiscal realist about the County's budget, which has been growing at 7.4%. He did this in a September 8 memo to department heads as they began preparations for the FY06 budget the Manager will propose in February 2005. This week's Arlington Sun-Gazette features the Manager's September 8 memo in which he detailed his concerns about county spending not being sustainable. In their reporting, the Sun-Gazette noted comments by two of the five County Board members that indicate their agreement with the direction in the Manager's memo. Arlington taxpayers need to provide additional motivation for the other three Board members.

October 06, 2004

Is the Washington Post Advocating for Limited Government?

You may have to throw away such Washington Post epithets as "Post-Democrat," "Pravda on the Potomac," and "ComPost." In today's Post, columnist Anne Applebaum calls Newt Gingrich (R), former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, "a towering historical figure" who "tried to do what no one has done before or since" when "he set out, quixotically, to control Congress' apparently insatiable urge to spend the nation's money." While she later adds, "Never mind his methods or his style: At least he made an effort, which is more than can be said of anyone in the current congressional leadership." She closes by writing "It's as if campaigning against big government has become passe': It's so old, so dull, so 1990s. It's impossible to believe that Gingrich ever tried it, impossible to believe anyone ever will again." Congratulations to the Post's Anne Applebaum!

October 02, 2004

Arlington County Manager Joins World of Fiscal Realists

On Monday, September 8, the County Manager issued budget priorities (copy posted at Arlington County Civic Federation website) to his department heads for their use in preparing the 2006 fiscal year budget that he will propose next February. In the memo, the Manager talks about the “long-term economic sustainability of the community” because he is concerned that local government spending has been growing “by an average of 7.4% a year.” According to the Manager, “This level of growth is not sustainable for the long-term.” (emphasis in the original) In his memo, the Manager notes the average growth for residential real estate “is approaching 20% for the fourth year in a row,” the average residential tax bill has grown by $1,467 since 2000, and the share of real estate taxes paid by residential homeowners has grown from 49% to 60% (emphasis added). The Manager’s recognition that such numbers are not sustainable is a good beginning, and mirrors almost verbatim what ACTA said in our March 2004 newsletter. We now ask the Manager to take the second step in his newfound mantle of fiscal reality, which is to say the county’s bonded indebtedness is equally unsustainable. As we showed in the March 2004 newsletter, per capita debt has grown almost 59% since 1996 while general fund spending grew 49%, which the Manager said was “not sustainable.” We hope the county's elected officials gain the same understanding which the Manager has.

October 01, 2004

General Assembly's Chief Tax Increaser at it Again

Today's Washington Post reports, "Senator John Chichester, the Stafford County Republican who led this year's campaign to increase spending on traffic problems, called yesterday on politicians and the public to rally behind new efforts to finance transportation projects." The paper noted that in this year's General Assembly, "Chichester proposed raising an assortment of fees to increase transportation funding by $800 million a year, but the plan was dropped during tense negotiations about the budget and taxes." The Senate's 'resident tax increaser' "blasted" a transportation plan proposed two weeks ago by several Northern Virginia Republicans. He also said general funds should not be used to pay for transportation projects, but never explained why not except to say it should be used for special interests that he favors. Stay tuned!