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March 31, 2007

Giving New Meaning to Care and Compassion

At its March 17 meeting, the Arlington County Board approved advertising a property (includes cars) tax rate that will define the method of allocating the state’s tax relief provided to Arlington County. The details are provided in the Manager’s report (agenda item 21.F.), but included proposing:

“that 100% of the tax liability for clean fuel vehicles be paid with the State money for assessed value below $20,000. This would provide a maximum subsidy of $1,000 to clean fuel vehicles and be $567 tax savings for clean fuel vehicles valued more than $20,000.”

Let me get this straight. When half of Arlington households with money incomes of less than $60,000, or the 20% with money incomes below $20,000, are eating at McDonald’s for the week’s big treat, the meals tax they pay is going to subsidize the car taxes of the $42,500 (MSRP) Lexus RX 400 hybrid because the Arlington County Board imagines that the emissions of ordinary fuel vehicles are the cause of global warming. And the Board thinks they are caring and compassionate?

Even before this example of caring and compassion for Lexus hybrids, however, there was evidence of the Arlington County Board’s lack of caring and compassion for those of lower income. Each year, the Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia is mandated by D.C. Code 47-817 to measure the tax burden of families with incomes of $25,000, $50,000, $75,000, $100,000, and $150,000. The 2005 report of Tax Rates and Tax Burdens for the Washington Metropolitan Area, issued August 2006, which is the latest available, shows in Table 2 that for families of three with incomes of $25,000, Arlington ranks second among the six jurisdictions measured. On the other hand, for each of the other income levels, Arlington County ranks lowest among the six (D.C., Alexandria, and Montgomery, Prince George’s, Arlington and Fairfax counties).

So the County Board is caring and compassionate, eh?

UPDATE 4/2/07: My apologies for misspelling "threat." It should be treat, and I've corrected it.

March 28, 2007

COLAs, Diet Colas, or UNColas

That seems to be the issue for the Superintendent and County Manager this year in their respective budget proposals for FY 2008. The Superintendent proposed a 2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) while the County Manager has no COLA in his budget. Yet, as Scott McCaffrey points out in his online article today in the Arlington Sun-Gazette, most of the county’s 3,700 employees “will still see slightly larger paychecks in the coming year.”

Actually, employees hired within the past several years will actually see their paychecks go up faster than inflation because of the county’s pay structure. Virtually all employees move up one step each year, according to the county’s personnel director with the first few of the 18 steps increasing by 4.1%, the middle steps by 3.2%, and the last steps by 2.3%. The Sun-Gazette’s McCaffrey notes that “(c)urrectly, employees max out when they reach Step 18” although the County Manager proposes adding a 19th step.

Arlington’s monopoly school system utilizes a similar step structure, but the Superintendent’s proposed budget would give employees a 2% COLA. The Sun-Gazette notes, though, that the head of the teachers union “said the 2-percent increased is not enough, and asked for a higher hike.”

During the County Board’s budget work session yesterday morning, the County Manager noted the added cost of employee healthcare and retirement benefit is equivalent to a COLA increase of 3.3%. So in effect, county employees are getting an additional pay raise of 3.3%, but they just won’t see it in their paychecks, but rather will see it in their healthcare and retirement benefits.

Instead of COLA's and step increases, shouldn't the pay of government employees have some connection to the realities to the pay of private sector employees in the region? Wouldn't this make the county and school budgets more sustainable? Afterall, without the dynamics of the private sector, what would government pay look like?

March 27, 2007

Hey, Government Ain’t a Cow to Be Milked!

Yesterday’s Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) editorializes:

“It’s a matter of faith for some that tax cuts and government spending help the rich, while leaving crumbs for the poor. But as with most conventional wisdom, nothing could be further from the truth.”

IBD then uses the results of a new study from the Tax Foundation (full study requires Adobe) to point out that America’s tax code:

“is massively redistributionist, sending literally trillions of dollars into low-income homes and far less into wealthy homes. This may be good or bad, depending on your point of view, but the fact is it’s happening. And those who argue that recent tax cuts benefit the rich ignore the reality.”

Table 4 of the study, which used 2004 “household cash money income,” shows the following government spending received per dollar of taxes paid:

 

 

Quintile

 

 

Household Cash Income

Government Spending per Dollar of Taxes Paid
Bottom 20%
$0 to $23,699
$8.21
Second 20%
$23,700 to $42,304
$2.51
Middle 20%
$42,305 to $65,000
$1.30
Fourth 20%
$65,501 to $99,501
$0.77
Top 20%
$99,502 and above
$0.41

The IBD editorial makes a point that needs to be repeated again and again, which is:

“Once a nation of stoic, self-reliant individualists, America now seems full of people who think other taxpayers owe them something. They see the ‘system’ as a giant cow to be milked – and damn the cow . . . (and) the real shame is that there are so many myths about taxes and poverty we can’t even have an honest discussion about it.”

HT for Tax Foundation study to Neal Boortz; HT for IBD editorial to Club for Growth.

March 23, 2007

Hey, Arlington County: Show Us the Money!

Arlington County officials, whether elected or senior bureaucrats, are forever telling citizens that Arlington is a "world-class community." Assertions to that affect show up in press releases and the introductory pages of most government documents.

 

Wouldn’t you think that a world-class community would have a world-class accounting system that provides citizens with online access to where our tax dollars are going? While such documents as proposed budgets, approved budgets, annual financial statements, etc. (both county and school district) are shiny and spiffy and win awards, both the county and the school district have a ways to go before they are in the category of “Google Government.”

 

Those thoughts came to mind after reading the latest study published by the National Taxpayers Union (press release and study in Adobe format). The press release for the study, prepared by Christopher Biggs and Kristina Rasmussen, notes:

more than 20 states have either constructed or are considering implementation of searchable online grant and contract databases – but there are large differences in their quality.”

Rasmussen and Biggs concluded: 

“No state has fully emulated the federal concept of a single searchable grant and contract database, but government leaders are gradually picking up on the need for more public transparency when it comes to tracking – and evaluating – the spending of tax dollars . . . “Hopefully this pro-taxpayer trend will accelerate this year.” 

And we look forward to the day when Arlington County adopts “Google Government” so Arlington taxpayers can see precisely how our tax dollars are being spent. With a total budget that spends over $5,000 per person, there is a lot of looking that citizens can do.

March 22, 2007

Metro Hires First Inspector General

“To boost oversight,” today’s Washington Post reports that:

“Metro's board of directors appointed the first inspector general in agency history yesterday in an effort to improve oversight and track how money is managed.”

The Post reports that Metro has an operating budget of $1.2 billion and a capital budget of $700 million as well as 10,000. Not much larger than local government (county + public schools) in Arlington. The new IG will have a staff of 27, which by the way is very much larger than Arlington’s internal audit function.

By comparison, the internal audit function for Arlington County is one of three units that report to the Accounting Department, which has a total of 11 positions. The Arlington Public Schools doesn’t even have a formal internal audit unit. Guess that leaves oversight to the Arlington County Board. Just trust me said the used car salesman! It will be interesting to learn whether the Arlington County Board member, who sits on t he Metro board, voted for a new IG. If he did, will that move up the day when Arlington County taxpayers have someone to look over how their taxes get treated?

March 20, 2007

More on the Porky Pigs in Congress

Yesterday, we growled that the appropriators in Congress had not learned a thing from the November elections despite professing otherwise. Today’s editorial cartoon in the DC Examiner provides a perfect albeit slightly partisan graphic if you believe a picture is worth 1,000 words.

While at the Examiner’s website, the editorial last Friday picked-up on the theme of Congressional pork. The editorial asks:

“What is it about an appropriations measure that causes sober-minded, hard-working members of Congress to see nothing more than a tax-paid cornucopia of goodies to bestow on friends, neighbors, family members, political allies and anybody else perceived as being potentially helpful in the next election? Judging by the $20 billion in pork found by The Examiner’s Charles Hurt in the Iraq supplemental funding bill before Congress, it would be no surprise to see the ghost of Sir Robert Walpole happily wandering about Capitol Hill.”

The editorial went on to explain that Wadpole was perhaps the most corrupt politician in British history, and it concludes that “(T)he same corrupting process of using public funds to buy congressional votes – lobbyists call it ‘Christmas treeing’ – has become business-as-usual in Congress.”

March 19, 2007

Promises, Promises, but Taxpayers Still the Stickees

And who you ask is doing the sticking? None other than the appropriators in Congress. Robert Novak writes in today’s Washington Post:

“As part of "Sunshine Week," meant to promote transparent government, the Office of Management and Budget was supposed to release a comprehensive database last Monday revealing the number and cost of earmarks since 2005. It did not. Word on Capitol Hill was that OMB was muzzled by the White House for fear of offending powerful congressional appropriators.

“Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee staffs under Democratic control are privately asking individual senators for earmark requests, without much transparency. That would seem to make a sham of the pledge by Appropriations Chairman Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va) to ‘place a moratorium on all earmarks until a reformed process is put in place.’”

In case you needed a cherry on top of that, Novak writes:

“An even stronger example of the resiliency of the congressional pork purveyors is the appropriators' noncompliance with the ethics bill that passed the Senate 96 to 2 but awaits final enactment.”

March 17, 2007

County Board Votes to Advertise Same Real Estate Tax Rate

That’s the good news for Arlington taxpayers. The bad news is the effective tax rate for all real estate in the county (calculated by the county, by the way) will increase by 4.60%, more than current inflation. Fortunately for the average residential homeowner, they will see no increase in their tax bills. Rather, the increase comes entirely from commercial real estate this year.

The vote to advertise the same rate means the Board cannot approve a higher real estate tax rate when it votes on the FY 2008 budget in April, but could approve a lower rate. It is still important to communicate with the Board since there are other taxes and fees, which the Board plans to increase, including a couple of new ones for Arlington taxpayers.

Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun-Gazette deserves a laurel for getting four stories posted by mid-afternoon concerning the Board’s discussions to advertise public hearings on several of the tax decisions, including the real estate tax rate, the car tax, the utility tax, and parking meters.

Before the Board began deliberating on advertising the various taxes and fees, the County Attorney provided them an option to advertise them en banc or to vote to advertise them individually (they were listed as agenda item 21.A. through 21.P.). What should have lasted no more than 30 seconds went on interminably, perhaps for as long as a half-hour with each Board member whining about one thing or another. One Board member even promised the others to provide them, and the Manager, an economics lecture on tax progressivity at some later date. Of course, if there had been just the “single” vote, there would not be those four stories now posted online, and will be in next Thursday weekly edition. Are Board members onto something?

March 15, 2007

Be Careful When Awarding Laurels

A year ago, we Growled several times about the Arlington School Board’s spendthrift ways (including  here and here), and awarded the School Board a laurel for promising an efficiency review at some future date. However, a year has gone by, and the Board had not yet requested the review. At the March 1, 2007 School Board meeting, we told the School Board that 19 Virginia school districts had undergone these efficiency reviews, and again called for the Arlington School Board to mandate one as part of its approval of the FY 2008 school budget. Earlier today, we noticed there are 22 school districts with completed effiency reviews listed at the Virginia Department of Education's website (Adobe required).

Before the start of its regular meeting this evening, the Board held a “public hearing” on the Superintendent’s proposed FY 2008 budget. Tim Wise, ACTA’s president, was one of four public speakers, and once again he called for an efficiency review of school operations. He noted that if the net savings recommended for the Alleghany County Public Schools could be achieved in Arlington, savings of $2 million annually could be achieved in the operational budget and over $3 million could be achieved through “shared resources.” With the cost per student set to increase above $18,000 for FY 2008, Wise said that it is possible that Arlington’s annual savings could be significantly higher.

After Wise spoke, Libby Garvey, school board chairman, announced that indeed there would be a call for an efficiency review. Sometimes, I guess, citizens just need to GROWL loud and often. And we’ll wait for the results of the efficiency review before awarding additional kudos to the School Board.

March 13, 2007

Environmental Do-Gooders do Bad in trying to do Good

In his New Year’s Day speech, Arlington County Board chairman, Paul Ferguson, told Arlingtonians that his “special focus” for 2007 would be the environment. He mentioned a number of things which the county has done and could do to make the county more “green.”

Now, the County Manager’s proposed FY 2008 budget includes several “policy priorities” and “strategic options” to implement Mr. Ferguson’s environmental initiative. One of those would provide “additional personal property tax relief to owners of vehicles that qualify as “clean fuel.” The Manager proposes setting aside $20,000 to reimburse the owners of the estimated 950 such cars, which would come at the expense of the personal property tax relief provided to other car owners.

The Toyota Prius is one of several “hybrid” vehicles that qualify for up to $3,400 in energy tax credits from American taxpayers. According to an editorial in last week’s Central Connecticut State University’s student newspaper, the Recorder Online:

“The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them, their ultimate green car is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer.”

The Recorder editorial says the Toyota Prius “causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius.” (emphasis added) The paper also notes the plant in Ontario where the nickel for the battery is mined and smelted:

“has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.”

The bottom line, according to the editorial, is that a Prius costs $3.25 per mile over a lifetime of 100,000 miles while the cost per mile for a Hummer is $1.95 over a lifetime of 300,000 miles, not to mention the environmental damage done by the nickel mining in Ontarios. Ask the County Board how many Prius vehicles are in the county’s fleet?

March 11, 2007

What’s New? The Washington Post Supports Higher Taxes.

Yesterday, we growled over how the Roanoke Times complained the transportation bill (HB 3202) passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly would dip into the state’s General Fund rather than raise taxes to pay for transportation enhancements, which afterall has been present since at least 2004 as Virginia’s top priority.

Tim Craig of the Washington Post asks today whether it is “wise to use the General Fund” to pay for transportation improvements. Craig writes:

“their debate exposes a deep philosophical rift that could affect Virginia taxpayers for a generation. And with all 140 legislators up for reelection this fall, voters are going to be asked to choose between vastly different visions for ensuring that government is adequately funded.”

Craig does quote both sides although Sen. Richard Saslaw’s (D-Fairfax) opinion “that Republicans are out to ‘starve government’” seems rather other the top, especially when Saslaw adds, "You starve out public schools. You starve out higher education. You starve out health and human service. And this is the down payment for doing just that."

As if to prove it’s liberal bias on raising taxes, one of the editorials today claims that “Virginia’s transportation bill dumps too much into the laps of localities.” They offer this conclusion:

“Most Northern Virginians are probably willing to pay more through higher taxes and fees if it means widening the jam-packed roads and improving dysfunctional intersections that they use regularly. Mr. Kaine, mindful of that, seems prepared to sign some version of this transportation bill at the end of the day. But he is right to push hard for a bill that is fair, balanced and up to the task of addressing a huge problem.”

The Post, like the Roanoke Times yesterday forgets one important fact. Whether the money comes from the General Fund or other sources, it’s the taxpayers’ money, and not Gov. Kaine’s (D) or the General Assembly’s. And besides, isn't transportation a core governmental function, and isn't the General Assembly supposed to prioritize changing needs?

March 10, 2007

Wasn’t Transportation the General Assembly’s Top Priority?

Our favorite liberal newspaper in Virginia, the Roanoke Times, which seems far more liberal than even the Washington Post, complains in an editorial today about the Republicans in the General Assembly using General Fund money to pay for transportation.

In the recently concluded 2007 General Assembly, both houses approved HB 3202, a transportation funding package – the House voted 64-34 and the Senate 21-18, according to this Capitol Contact, published by the Virginia Association of Counties. VACo and Gov. Kaine (D) apparently aren’t happy with the bill. In fact, Gov. Kaine has been crisscrossing the state trying to garner support against it. The Capitol Contact also lists major elements of the bill.

We don’t mind the editorializing about the spendthrift ways of the General Assembly since the 2006 report on state spending (requires Adobe) from the General Assembly’s own Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) provides the ammunition. Two of the key findings from the report include:

  • Over the past decade, the state’s operating budget has increased 87%, and
  • After adjusting for inflation (increased 27% from 1997 to 2006) and population growth (14% over the period), Virginia’s budget still increased 25%, an average annual increase of 3%.

Given how the General Assembly has shoveled money to other state programs, it doesn’t bother us one iota if it wants to use money from the General Fund. As the JLARC report shows, K-12 enrollment is up 9% during the 10-year period, but aid to education has increased 31% (inflation adjusted). Or that enrollment in 4-year public colleges and universities is up 14%, but budgets are up 40%.

So, we hope the editorial staff of the Roanoke Times will stop whining. Besides, whether money for transportation comes from the General Fund or the Transportation Trust Fund, we would remind the editorial writers of the Roanoke Times that the money belongs to Virginia taxpayers, and not the Governor or General Assembly.

March 09, 2007

Trying to be Just Like Mark

In 2004, then Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) engineered the largest tax increase in Virginia history with the help of Sen. John Chichester (R). With that example of bipartisanship, Warner used it as the keystone of a short-lived run for the presidency.

Are other governors looking to emulate Mark Warner? That thought occurred after reading in yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times that Illinois Gov. Blagojevich (D) had “proposed a record $60.1 billion budget reliant on the largest tax increase and biggest borrowing spree in state history.” As most any politician would do, the governor claimed there’s much good to be done. As the Sun-Times wrote:

“Claiming a ‘moral imperative,’ Blagojevich wants to infuse billions of new dollars into public schools, a new health care program for the uninsured and poorly financed government pension funds for state retirees.”

A major portion of the tax increase would come from a gross receipts tax on business. But a blogger for the Tax Foundation offers a bit of Economics 101:

“Regardless of how high the governor may want to increase spending (even if he w anted to triple it), a gross receipts tax is one of the worst ways to raise the revenue for that spending.”

But what tax-raising politician ever understands the impact of their plundering ways?

March 07, 2007

What Does Pork Look Like

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released its 2007 Congressional Pig Book today, their annual compilation of pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. According to their press release today:

“The 2007 Pig Book identifies 2,658 pork projects at a cost of $13.2 billion in the Defense and Homeland Security Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2007.  Only two of the 11 appropriations bills were enacted by Congress and the remaining nine were subject to a moratorium on earmarks.  CAGW has identified $254 billion in pork since 1991.”

My two favorites listed in the CAGW press release were these two:

  • “$5,500,000 for the Gallo Center to study the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the brain;
  • “$1,650,000 to improve the shelf life of vegetables”  

Find your favorite in their database of pork-projects, which you can access from the press release.

March 06, 2007

West Virginia Congressman is 2006’s Porker of the Year

Late last month, Citizens Against Government Waste announced that Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WVa) was selected as its Porker of the Year. In making the announcement, CAGW said Rep. Mollohan was selected:

"for abusing his position on the House Appropriations Committee by securing millions of dollars in earmarks that may have benefited him personally.  The New York Times (4/08/06) detailed how Rep. Mollohan directed $250 million to five nonprofit organizations that he set up.  Rep. Mollohan surrendered his seat as ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee in April.

“CAGW identified $480 million for pork projects added in the House or in conference committees, most likely by Rep. Mollohan, for his district since 1995.  More than half of his earmarks have gone to the five nonprofits, most of which depend almost entirely on government money for funding.  To run the organizations, Rep. Mollohan recruited friends and former aides who then contributed to his political campaigns and family foundation.”

According to the Charleston Daily Mail, Mollohan thought CAGW’s award was a compliment. Others getting votes in the CAGW contest were co-nominees Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) with 25.5%, and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) with 22.9%. All three senators had been Porkers of the Month in 2006.

March 05, 2007

Tree Huggers Help Close Oregon Library System

Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle reports on the planned closure of the 15 libraries in the Jackson County, Oregon library system. The immediate cause is the loss of $7 million in federal funding, which was 80% of the library system’s budget. The county administrator explained that maintaining public safety is a higher priority than keeping the libraries open.

The history of the funding for the county library system goes back to the days when Theodore Roosevelt was president, as the Chronicle wrote:

In the early 1900s, Roosevelt took 2.4 million acres away from the Oregon-California Railroad, which was accused of swindling land deals in exchange for building the railroad. When the federal government reclaimed the land, Oregon lost half its property tax base.

“To make up for it, the federal government agreed to split timber revenues on the acreage with Oregon. Over the next 50 years it was a lucrative arrangement, and timber money was used to build courthouses and jails, pave roads and free Oregonians from having to pay sales taxes.

“The good times petered out in the early 1990s, when the northern spotted owl was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, all but shutting down large-scale logging. Today, just one large sawmill remains in Jackson County, compared with 91 in 1954.

“While promising to come up with rules for a more ecologically friendly logging method, Congress agreed in 2000 to continue "safety net" payments to rural counties for six more years. But no one did the hard work of figuring out how to balance the timber industry with nature. So the checks stopped in December 2006.

"The federal government stopped making money off of Oregon trees, so they stopped sending money to us -- it's that simple," said Leonard Kranenburg, a retiree who meets his "breakfast club" buddies every morning at Sally's Kitchen in Medford for coffee and conversation.

In November, voters turned down a levy that would have kept the libraries open. One of the county commissioners has the solution, which is to put that timber growing land back on the property tax rolls. But that’s where the tree huggers come in. They’ve had the spotted owl’s endangered species listing tied-up in court for almost two decades. As the commissioner noted, the trees are still growing, and in some places, the Forest Service is paying $400 an  acre to thin the forests.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the tree huggers were willing to meet ordinary citizens even half-way on the spotted owl issue?

March 04, 2007

Facts and Perceptions on the Mortgage Interest Deduction

According to Fiscal Fact No. 49 from the Tax Foundation:

“Despite recent attempts by real estate, home building, and mortgage-lending organizations to portray the home mortgage interest deduction as vital to middle-income family budgets, an analysis of data from the Internal Revenue Service tells a different story.

“The most recent IRS data show few low- and middle-income taxpayers benefit from the home mortgage interest deduction. Those who filed tax returns with under $30,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI) in 2003 received just 9 percent of deductions for home mortgage interest, despite filing 52 percent of all tax returns. (The median taxpayer’s AGI was approximately $29,000 in 2003.) In contrast, 36 percent of home mortgage interest deductions were claimed by taxpayers with AGIs over $100,000.”

In summary, the Tax Foundation writes:

“Despite the claims of various industry groups that the home mortgage interest deduction is an important factor promoting broad-based home ownership, IRS data show the bulk of mortgage interest deductions are claimed by a relatively small fraction of Americans with incomes well above average. As a result, it is likely that the deduction primarily encourages larger and more expensive homes among a relatively small share of taxpayers, rather than promoting broad-based home ownership among ordinary Americans.”

Sure seems as if a flat tax would reduce the tax filing burdens of a great many American taxpayers.

March 03, 2007

An Honest Politician in Lubbock, Texas

There are frequent news stories about the money that D.C. government rakes in from their red-light cameras. The stories will quote some politician or another as saying they’re just doing it for public safety reasons. In Arlington and other Virginia localities, red-light cameras will be soon become a fixture as the 2007 General Assembly recently passed HB 1778. And never fear, every member of Arlington’s General Assembly delegation supported the bill.

But back to the honest politician. According to this news account, the city of Lubbock, Texas has instituted a freeze on new hiring because of red light cameras. City officials were counting on $1.5 million that would be produced by the cameras based upon a “short yellow light” timing. When that was exposed by a local TV station, they learned the re-timed lights would produce fewer traffic citations. A city councilman explained:

"It is all about the money . . . It wasn’t until we tried to sell the idea to the public that we started talking about public safety.”

 As proof that it's all about the money, the Virginia Senate rejected an amendment to HB 1778 by Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) that the "yellow phase" be no less than 5.5 seconds, which apparently exceeds recommendations of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. The Virginian Pilot has this story on the impact in Virginia Beach.

March 01, 2007

Latest Congressional Fiscal Ratings

The National Taxpayers Union recently released the 28th annual fiscal scorecard of Congress. According to NTU, their methodology is “the only one to utilize every roll call vote affecting tax, spending, and regulatory issues,” and “is widely considered to be the most comprehensive measurement of each lawmaker’s stance on fiscal policy.” NTU also noted:

“During 2006, 61 lawmakers attained Taxpayer Scores sufficient for a grade of “A” (at least 84 percent in the Senate and 70 percent in the House), and hence were eligible for the “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” – a significant jump from the 44 who earned top grades in 2005. Meanwhile, 224 Senators and Representatives captured the title of “Big Spender” for posting “F” grades in 2006 (versus 227 the year before). The Senate’s 2006 “F” threshold was 24 percent or less, while the House’s was 23 percent or less.”

The best that can be said for Arlington’s representative in the House, Rep. Jim Moran (D) is that he was consistent in the 109th Congress, earned an F with scores of 15% in each session. The average House scores for the two sessions were 40% and 39%. In the Senate, both Sen. George Allen (R) and Sen. John Warner (R) earned B’s in each session with scores ranging from 67% to 81%.

For precise information about NTU’s methodology, as well as the ratings and scores of all members of Congress, see the special supplements available at the bottom of their press release.