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January 31, 2008

A Lesson in How Arlington County Uses Our Taxes

The big money is yet to be spent by Arlington County on the proposed park, known until Tuesday as North Tract, but the way they went about renaming the park can’t bode well for the wallets of Arlington taxpayers.

On Tuesday evening, the Arlington County Board selected “Long Bridge Park” as the new name for the park, which was informally known as North Tract, according to a report January 31 in the online Arlington Sun-Gazette. The name honors “a succession of river spans that have connected Arlington and the District of Columbia for nearly 200 years.” More specifically:

“The original Long Bridge opened as a toll drawbridge for foot and horse traffic in 1809. The bridge was burned by both the British and Americans during the War of 1812, reopened in 1816 and was renovated from 1832-35. In the 1850s, it began to accommodate railroad traffic.”

The paper also reported on January 26 that keeping the North Tract name was not considered because the county was looking for “the most evocative, memorable and descriptive names possible.”

Obviously, such a task required hiring a consultant. Indeed, the county did just that. Hey, if you’re going to spend upwards of $100 million, why not spend a few more taxpayer dollars for a name. And they did. According to the county, “a purchase order for services in the amount of $10,600 was approved for Reingold Communications. To date, $8,834 has been paid to this vendor.”

I guess that is an early indication that when the Board “scrubs” the Manager’s proposed FY 2009 during the next couple of months, don’t expect them to find any economies or efficiencies in the budget. Here are links to the county’s press release on the renaming and the webpage where you can access agenda item 38 of the Board’s January 29 meeting.

January 28, 2008

Capitalism and Free-Markets

CNBC host and former Reagan economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow takes on Bill Gates' recent “clarion call for a ‘kinder capitalism’ to aid the world’s poor.” Kudlow writes at RealClearPolitics:

“For all his do-good preaching, Gates is ignoring the global spread of free-market capitalism that has successfully lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class over the last decade. Think China. Think India. Think Eastern Europe. (Maybe even think France under Nicolas Sarkozy.) Gates wants business leaders to dedicate more time to fighting poverty. But the reality is that economic freedom is the best path to prosperity. Period.”

And from an essay providing an "intellectual defense of liberty" in the October 2007 issue of The Freeman, economist Walter E. Williams writes”

“It is not broadly appreciated that the greater wealth produced by free markets itself contributes to a more civilized society and civilized relationships. For most of man’s existence, he has had to spend most of his time simply eking out a living. In pre-industrial society, and in many places today, the most optimistic scenario for the ordinary citizen was obtaining enough to meet his physical needs for another day.With the rise of capitalism and the concomitant rise in human productivity that yielded seemingly ceaseless economic progress, it was no longer necessary for man to spend his entire day simply providing for minimum physical needs. People were able to satisfy their physical needs with less and less time. This made it possible for them to have the time and other resources to develop spiritually and culturally.”

What has so many Americans calling for “change” and thinking that more government is the answer?

January 26, 2008

It’s What They Do, Not What They Say

As always, Virginia taxpayers must take what members of the Virginia General Assembly say with a grain of salt. A very large grain of salt.

As the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star reports, “lawmakers are making lots of noise about how careful they need to be in writing the next two-year budget.” However, the paper also notes that legislators have “introduced a total of $8.7 billion in budget amendments.”

It’s interesting to see the partisan split for that $8.7 billion of spending increases. The paper reports:

  • “In the Senate, Democrats put in a total of $3.5 billion in spending increases for the two-year budget, while Republicans' total rings up at $1.4 billion.”
  • “On the House side, delegates proposed $3.8 billion in additional spending amendments; $2.6 billion for Republicans and $1.3 billion for Democrats.”

HT to the Free Lance-Star for providing the link to the Virginia state budget.

January 25, 2008

Economic Stimulus Package: Welfare or Tax Cuts

With talk about the so-called stimulus package everywhere, including the drive-by media and talk radio, it’s worth asking just what is being done, and will it be effective.

According to Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute, blogging at Cato@Liberty, $100 billion of the $150 billion stimulus package:

“is simply extra spending; it is a giant one-time welfare program. To pay for it, the government will borrow an added $100 billion, which will impose $100 billion of higher taxes on future generations.”

The title of an editorial in today’s NY Post pretty much says it all: “Free Money!” The editorial then goes on to point out:

“Unfortunately, the entire plan ultimately reflects one of the most enduring - and politically convenient - economic myths around: the notion that hard times can be softened by throwing money at them.

“That was the clear premise accepted by all sides of the debate in Washington this week: Get money into the hands of the people who would spend it as fast as possible, then stand back as their added purchasing power revs up America's economic engine.”

And will the package actually produce the expected economic benefits? According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, the “economic benefits of fiscal stimulus (are) likely to be small.”

Current estimates are the checks won’t be in the mail until May or June at the earliest. Wouldn’t an easier and faster way of getting money back into the economy than the so-called ‘tax rebates’ in the stimulus package be to adjust employees’ tax withholding? Just further proof the politicians are doing ‘something’ for the people. Another political gimmick in our view -- paid for by you know who.

Hat tip to Chris Edwards, here’s the White House’s “fact sheet” on the stimulus package.

January 24, 2008

Tax Me As Much As You Want, But . . .

That seems to be the message from two stories in this week’s Arlington Connection. In one story, the newspaper reports, “A plan to change elementary school boundaries causes outrage.” The  second story is about the county's response to the flooding of Little Pimmit Run; the headline reads “(a) group of homeowners are at their wits end over a stream that is threatening their properties.”

On the other hand, it is difficult to turn out more than a handful of Arlington taxpayers to tell members of the Arlington County Board at the budget and tax hearings in the Spring that their plans to increase local taxes are unwanted.

As a reminder, the County Manager will be presenting his proposed budget in just a few weeks. Stay tuned! Be sure to viist Growls as often as you can.

January 23, 2008

Just How Far Left Does the New York Times Lean?

If their “Charity Begins in Washington” editorial yesterday is any indication, it leans so far to the left that we can call them socialists. Consider:

“Yet we’d be so much happier about all the good things America’s moneyed elite pay for if the government made needed public investments.

“The flip side of American private largess is the stinginess of the public sector. Philanthropic contributions in the United States — about $300 billion in 2006 — probably exceed those of any other country. By contrast, America’s tax take is nearly the lowest in the industrial world. Federal, state and local tax collections amount to just more than 25.5 percent of the nation’s economic output. The Finnish government collects 48.8 percent. As a result, the United States spends less on social programs than virtually every other rich industrial country, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Finnish government probably has money to build children’s health clinics.

“Critics of government spending argue that America’s private sector does a better job making socially necessary investments. But it doesn’t. Public spending is allocated democratically among competing demands. Rich benefactors can spend on anything they want, and they tend to spend on projects close to their hearts.”

Coyote asks "does anyone actually believe that Congress does a better job spending your money than you do?” And later asks, “Has anyone looked at the last highway bill?  How many tens of thousands of politically motivated earmarks were there?”

RadClown, another blogger, has perhaps the wisest observation, however: “This editorial alone reveals their contempt for individual liberty. We can be thankful their circulation continues to dwindle.”

January 22, 2008

Taxpayers to County Board: There is a Tomorrow

When I was a youngster, and my Mother thought I was spending what I earned from my paper route too freely, she would ask me, “So, are you spending like there’s no tomorrow?” Looks like the County Manager is telling the spendthrift Arlington County Board much same thing.

In a story with no comments by any of the five County Board solons, Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun-Gazette posted a story last night that begins:

“The Arlington County government stands at risk of exceeding its own debt limits and putting its bond rating at risk, if it doesn't rein in future bond referendums and capital spending, County Manager Ron Carlee has warned.

“The government's total debt has ballooned from $387 million in 2000 to $641 million in 2007, an average annual growth rate of 9.4 percent that Carlee says now is “not sustainable” over the long term.

“In a memo to County Board members on Jan. 16, Carlee said projected lower growth in government revenues presented the possibility that the government might in the future exceed its self-imposed cap on debt, which requires that total annual debt funding be no more than 10 percent of government operating expenditures.

“How does this matter to the typical Arlingtonian? It means the county government may soon start having major choices to make: Build a new high school, or construct the North Tract recreation complex? Complete existing projects, or start new ones? Seek to make deals with developers for joint-use projects, or not?”

McCaffrey’s complete story should be a ‘must read’ for every Arlington taxpayer because it contains a great deal more information than just the short excerpt above. A couple questions, though. First, why wasn’t the information disclosed before last November’s election so that it could be discussed by the candidates for the Arlington County Board? Second, why are there no quotes from Board members in this story? Now you’d think at least one of the five wise solons would have something to say in response to the Manager’s call to slow down capital spending.

January 21, 2008

A Matter of Who Pays the Taxes

An editorial in this morning’s Richmond Times-Dispatch questions the frequently held opinion “that the business community is anti-tax.” Rather, the editorial says:

“The view is misinformed. Corporate America does not object to high taxes per se. It depends on who's paying.”

The newspaper considers a letter sent to the General Assembly by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Manufacturing Association which:

“notes with alarm proposed changes to the Virginia Constitution allowing a homestead exemption. The proposals would permit localities to exempt up to 20 percent of the value of a home for tax-assessment purposes.”

The concern of the two business groups, as the editorial points out, “lies in the worry that the homestead exemption would shift the weight of the tax burden from individuals to business.” While the editorial doesn’t question the groups for trying to protect business interests, consider that :

“when a business group praises the virtue of keeping taxes low, it might not necessarily be talking about yours.”

While it’s important to keep in mind that business is the engine of America’s economy, keep in mind that corporate America, especially big business, has it’s own interests, too.

January 20, 2008

Just Who Runs America?

That question came to mind after reading a story in Friday’s Los Angeles Times in which the newspaper reported that:

“America's headlong rush to tap its enormous coal reserves for electricity has slowed abruptly, with more than 50 proposed coal-fired power plants in 20 states canceled or delayed in 2007 because of concerns about climate change, construction costs and transportation problems.”

Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch focused on the roll that environmental groups are playing by writing:

“In federal and state courtrooms across the country, environmental groups are putting coal-fueled power plants on trial in a bid to slow the industry's biggest construction boom in decades.

“At least four dozen coal plants are being contested in 29 states, according to a recent Associated Press tally. The targeted utilities include such giants as Peabody Energy and American Electric Power down to small rural cooperatives.

“In Virginia, environmental groups have rallied to the side of Wise County residents who oppose Dominion Virginia Power's plans to build a $1.6 billion coal-fired power plant outside St. Paul.

“The plant, supported by county officials, would help the company meet an anticipated surge in demand for electricity, but it also would be one of the biggest polluters in the state if built and operated to Dominion's specifications.”

Who is looking out for the energy needs of Americans? And  where is the energy going to come from when automakers start producing cars that run on electricity? From these two stories, and other recent news, it seems that environmentalists have joined forces with left-leaning politicians to tie-up energy producers into a ball of red-tape.

The environmentalists seem to have the gotten the upper hand, however. As Doug Bandow writes in the September 1993 issue of The Freeman:

“In the abstract, greater attention to environmental matters would seem to be a positive trend. After all, no one wants to breath polluted air. No one wants to visit an Everglades that is dying or see Yellowstone’s Old Faithful replaced by condominiums. And who could not be concerned about the possibility of a warming environment, threatening ozone holes, and the specter of acid rain?

“The problem, however, is that the environment has become a hostage to politics. Many environmental activists want more than a clean environment. Their commitment to conservation and political action is religious, and their goals are often far-reaching: to transform what they consider to be a sick, greedy, and wasteful consumer society. As a result, many otherwise well-meaning people have proved quite willing to use state power to force potentially draconian social changes irrespective of numerous important alternative values, including freedom, health, and prosperity.

“The real political divide is not between right and left, conservative and liberal, or Republican and Democrat. Rather, it is between market process and central planning, the free market and command and control by the government. Most politicians believe in government solutions. They may not be consistent in the specific ways they want the state to intervene, but they like government involvement. Although liberal enthusiasm for state action is best known, conservatives, too, often want government to rearrange environmental outcomes arbitrarily. There are no more fervent supporters of irrigation projects that deliver below-cost water to farmers, subsidies to promote logging on public lands, and cut-rate range fees on federal grazing land for ranchers than Republican legislators.”

As Bandow noted in opening his essay, “Eight of ten Americans call themselves environmentalists.” but as George Reisman, writes in an essay in 2001 for the Mises Institute:

“A rational response to the possibility of large-scale environmental change is to establish the economic freedom of individuals to deal with it, if and when it comes. Capitalism and the free market are the essential means of doing this, not paralyzing government controls and ‘environmentalism.’”

Seems rather rational to us! But are the environmentalists listening? And do they care? Better question: are America's politicians listening to ordinary American citizens?

January 19, 2008

Real Estate Assessments: Commercial Up, Residential Flat

The bottom line, according to numbers in a PowerPoint presentation for county commission chairs, is that real estate assessments for commercial property increased 12.0%, for apartments 12.9%, for condominiums 2.7% and for single family homes, overall assessments actually decreased 0.9%.

The PowerPoint presentation also showed that from calendar year 2001 to 2008, single family residences increased 145% in value, condominiums increased 257%, apartments 170%, and commercial 88%.

While overall assessments decreased for single family homes from 2007 to 2008, 11.0% of homes increased in value since last year, according to the press release.

The online Arlington Sun-Gazette makes the following point that Arlington taxpayers know only too well:

“During the real estate boom of 1999-2005, rising residential real estate assessments allowed the county government to progressively lower tax rates while still reaping a windfall in tax revenue. Despite lower tax rates, most Arlington homeowners have seen their tax bills double in recent years.”

Assessments were mailed on Wednesday, January 16.

Further information is available from this county press release, and the website of the county’s Office of Real Estate Assessment.

January 18, 2008

Where’s The Evidence, Senator?

Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County), who plans a run for governor in 2009, is a twitter because his Senate Bill 267 was approved in one committee of the Senate, and it’s on its way to the Finance Committee, according to today’s Roanoke Times.

The newspaper reports the bill “would cost the state more than $400 million this year alone if it’s approved. That doesn’t include the local share, which would come down on cities and counties.” The paper quotes Deeds as saying:

"It's got a huge fiscal impact but the truth is the numbers don't lie . . . If we're going to require or demand excellence in the classrooms, we've got to step up to the plate and pay for it."

The senator claims that some localities “are so far below the (national average) they serve as feeder systems for the higher paying school systems,” such as those in Northern Virginia. Nationally, Virginia ranks 31st in teacher pay, according to the Roanoke Times.

Hey Senator, where’s your proof? He presented no evidence in his bill that some school districts are experiencing excessive teacher turnover. And guess whose numbers are cited in the bill’s impact statement? You guessed it, the national teachers’ union, the NEA. And if teachers in the Arlington Public Schools are paid above the national average, will they be required to take a pay cut? Basing teacher pay on some arbitrarry national average is akin to putting teacher pay on auto-pilot.

January 16, 2008

A Good Plan, In Our Opinion

Gov. Tim Kaine (D) wrote to the chairmen of the General Assembly’s finance and appropriations committees on Monday. In the letter, he said that because of significant shortfalls in three revenue categories, “he might need to lop spending items off his proposed budget should economic forecasts worsen this month,” according to today’s Washington DC Examiner.

The Examiner wrote:

“In the letter, Kaine referred to three sectors of the state revenue pie: Nonwitholding individual income, corporate taxes and the recordation tax. The first, paid largely by investments and the self-employed, dropped 21.4 percent in December over the same month in 2006. Corporate taxes fell 21.1 percent last month, and the tax on recording deeds, wills, contracts and lawsuits dropped 27 percent.

“Although Kaine has said he advocates some new taxes, he has not proposed any.”

The paper included the following uninformed statement by Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston):

“Virginia is a pretty frugal state. ... It’s not obvious or clear to me right now what can go,”

Del. Plum can’t be too familiar with the state budget. Perhaps he should join the General Assembly’s Cost Cutting Caucus for help in learning what can be cut. Given that state spending has increased significantly faster than inflation and population growth combined over the past 10 years, according to the General Assembly’s own audit group (JLARC), Del. Plum shouldn’t have much trouble finding spending to cut from the budget. At least the governor sounds as if he has a plan, and is willing to make the hard choices.

January 14, 2008

Why Politicians Like Being Politicians?

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) may have let the cat out of the bag last week about what drives politicians. A ‘photo-op’ of Gov. Bredesen showed him awarding a $1 million grant to The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president.

The governor began his remarks for WKRN-TV saying:

"One of the great things about being governor is you get to take taxes away and later give it back and people are happy . . . Is this a great job or what?"

Although he had a little smile on his face while saying that, we appreciate the governor’s candid honesty.

HT Club for Growth and Taxing Tennessee.


January 12, 2008

How About Learning to Live Within Fiscal Constraints?

Thursday was just the second day of the 2008 General Assembly, but already there’s a call for higher taxes. According to a front-page article in yesterday’s Washington Post metro section:

“All 21 Senate Democrats stood together to call for additional money for transportation, saying that last year’s $1.1 billion compromise did not go far enough.”

Yesterday’s Growls linked to the VACostCutting website. I don’t know if any of those 21 Senators are members of the General Assembly’s cost-cutting caucus, but if they aren’t, I would encourage the 21 to participate in it. Their active participation might result in learning that all of Virginia’s government programs aren’t the most economical, efficient or effective, and, consequently, the money for them could be used more productively for transportation, thus avoiding even calls for increased taxes. 


January 11, 2008

Thank The Parents Sending Kids to Private Schools

A blogger at VACostCutting, maintained among others by Del. Chris Saxon (R-Stauton) answers the question of just how much do parents save Virginia taxpayers by sending their K-12 kids to private school or by homeschooling them. Take a guess.

For the record, abut 125,000 K-12 students attend private schools and about 24,000 kids are home schooled. Virginia spends between $3,750 and $4,229 per student, depending on such add-ons as special education, English as a Second Language, etc. The blogger writes:

“Do the math and you arrive at a cost between $468 million and $531 million dollars.

“Do the same math for home schooled children and you get a figure between $90 million and $101.5 million dollars. Overall, kids educated in private schools and home schools saved the Commonwealth between $558 and $632.5 million per year.”

If Virginia taxpayers are saving because some parents are sending their children to private schools or home schooling their children, wouldn’t it be wise to offer those parents tax credits for doing so? Taxpayers actually save even more when you consider the local taxes avoided because some parents believe that private schools or home schooling are better for their children.

January 10, 2008

Helps Explain Why There's No Money for Roads

Rational taxpayers have to wonder just what goes through the heads of some elected officials. The latest example is U.S. Representative David Hobson (R-Ohio) who was named yesterday by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) as the “January 2008 Porker of the Month for earmarking funds for a public restroom and gas station.”

According to CAGW, “Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.”

Two paragraphs in the CAGW press release provide further support for Rep. Hobson’s award:

  • “Rep. Hobson added a $300,000 Economic Development Initiative (EDI) grant for the Springfield Arts Council for “construction of Phase III of the west plaza comfort station” in the Fiscal 2008 Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development (THUD), and Related Agencies portion of the omnibus appropriations bill.  EDI grants were originally intended to be competitively awarded to projects in low and moderate-income communities, but the program has evolved into a notorious pork warehouse.
  • “A prior Hobson earmark of great notoriety recently came to fruition.  Rep. Hobson had made it his personal mission to fund a gas station ever since he almost ran out of gas in Wilberforce, Ohio, more than 20 years ago.  In 2001, he earmarked an $800,000 EDI grant to the Tawawa Community Development Corporation in Wilberforce for the project.  Speedway SuperAmerica and county commissioners chipped in $900,000, but it wasn’t until December 27, 2007 that the Tawawa/Dave Hobson Plaza opened for business.  A pizza place or takeout restaurant is expected to move in soon.”

Earmarks, or pork as they are more commonly called, are not responsible for the condition of America’s highways or the nation’s national debt, but they reflect the lack of fiscal responsibility by the nation’s lawmakers.

January 09, 2008

Advice to Congress: Go with the Flow

Or better yet, when Congress finally gets around to overhauling the Tax Code, it should follow the worldwide trend, which is towards a ‘flat tax.’

On Monday, the National Taxpayers Union issued this press release in which it said:

“As House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) plans another push this year for an overhaul of the Tax Code, lawmakers should abandon Rangel's multi-rate proposal and follow the worldwide movement toward a simple flat tax system, according to the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). In the mid-20th century, Hong Kong was the only country with a flat -- and proportional -- national personal income tax rate. Since then, 17 other countries have followed suit and introduced flat taxes, according to the World Taxpayers Associations (WTA), a coalition of 60 taxpayer-advocacy groups -- including NTU -- from 44 countries.”

As NTU’s Pete Sepp said, “Whether it's a flat income tax or even better, a retail-level national sales tax, American policymakers should look abroad to see what's working . . . Single-rate taxes represent the wave of the future for countries that want to be competitive and governments that want to respect the rights of their taxpayers.” Is Congress listening?

January 08, 2008

Authority of NVTA to Levy Taxes

The DC Examiner publishes this report on the appeal before the Virginia Supreme Court of the constitutionality “of the (2007) General Assembly’s transportation package.” The report begins:

“Opponents of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority on Tuesday asked the Virginia Supreme Court to bar the group from levying taxes and issuing bonds for regional road projects because voters haven't directly elected its governing board.

“They asked the court to overturn an Arlington County judge's ruling in August that upheld the constitutionality of the General Assembly's transportation package. The legislation allows the transportation authority to raise $300 million by levying seven regional taxes and fees and issuing bonds to pay for transportation projects for the traffic-choked region.”

Opponents include Loudoun County and Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William). We’ve growled before about the accountability of the NVTA, and we may soon learn the position of the Virginia Supreme Court on that accountability.

January 07, 2008

Not Just Greedy, But Uncaring, Too

Yesterday, we growled about the greed of Arlington County government, pointing out that tax collections by the country grew from $331.9 million in 1998 to $714.4 million in 2007, an increase of 115.3%. We also pointed out that if the taxes had grown at the rate of inflation, that $331.9 million would have increased to $427.9 million. The bottom line, we growled, is that local government in Arlington County over-collected $286.5 million of our taxes.

Now Arlington County proudly points out that its so-called “vision” includes being a “caring” community. So how much does Arlington County really care about the welfare of its taxpayers?

The answer is “not much!” Page 179 of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2007 along with data from Table D-2, which we referenced yesterday, contains the proof. The fact is that in 1998 county residents paid $1,778 per capita in taxes with a per capita income of $43,554. In 2007, the comparable numbers were $3,488 and $63,500, respectively.

The bottom line, however, is that taxes per capita increased 96.2% over the ten-year period, but income per capita increased by only 45.8%. So, Arlington County Board, where is the "caring" in your so-called vision?

January 06, 2008

The Greed of Arlington County Government

If you listen to the Left, it’s capitalists and conservatives and anti-taxers who are greedy.

Not so if you look at the facts. Indeed, it’s government that’s greedy, at least it’s our local government when you start crunching the numbers. For example, take a look at taxes in Table D-2 on page 171 of the recently published Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for Fiscal Year 2007.

In 1998, the county collected $331,868,850 while in 2007, taxes collected has grown to $714,434,824, or 115.3% more than in 1998. By comparison, the 1998 amount would have increased to $427,921,666, according to the CPI inflation calculator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That means that if Arlington county government had lived within its means, i.e., lived within the bounds of inflation, it collected $286.5 million more than is justified by the growth of inflation. In other words, for every $2.00 in taxes collected by the county in 2007, the county should have returned about $0.86 to the taxpayers.

Greedy taxpayers? Not in our opinion! Rather, it’s greedy Arlington County government.

January 05, 2008

“Rich States Grow Faster by Taxing Less”

A simple, common sense concept, but so difficult, apparently, for politicians to understand.

Earlier this week, an editorial in the DC Examiner had just that title. The editorial was based on a new book by noted economic adviser Arthur Laffer and economist Stephen Moore with the Wall Street Journal. In the book, Laffer and Moore:

“analyze the real-life consequences of the tax and spending policies in all 50 states. Laffer and Moore also explain why a record 8 million Americans — more than 1,000 per day — packed up all their worldly possessions in 2006 and moved to high-growth states, which more often than not are those with the lowest tax burdens.”

Virginia is ranked 6th among the 50 states for economic growth while neighboring Maryland, which recently passed its largest tax increase in history, is ranked 32nd. With the Virginia General Assembly set to begin its so-called “long session” next week, the Examiner notes:

“The greatest challenge for Virginia lawmakers will be to resist seeking new or increased taxes. In contrast, Maryland’s future economic outlook is much bleaker than Virginia’s . . .”

The Laffer/Moore book is available for purchase or download at the website of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Arlington taxpayers are urged to contact their Virginia legislators; contact information is available at the Virginia General Assembly website. Tell them your taxes are high enough; rather they need to better prioritize existing revenues.

January 04, 2008

County Board Still Doesn’t Know Meaning of Fiscal Sustainability

The Arlington County Board was presented the audited financial statements for Fiscal Year 2007 (ended June 30, 2007) at its December 18, 2007 recessed meeting. It’s unfortunate, however, that neither the Manager nor the CPA firm responsible for the audit spend any time discussing some of the numbers contained in the financial statements, which bear the official name of Consolidated Audited Financial Report (CAFR).

Generally, the first number this watchdog looks at is year-to-year total spending for general government expenditures, which is on page 170 this year. It shows the County Board increased spending by 9.49% in FY2007. Since inflation, as measured by the Department of Labor’s CPI, was just 2.4% during the period, it’s hard to understand how county spending is fiscally sustainable.

We’d be happy to hear from any member of the County Board who wants to justify such fiscal shenanigans. We’ll have a more indepth look at the CAFR in the next Watchdog newsletter. 

January 03, 2008

Run The County, Not Our Lives

The ‘below-the-fold’ headline of yesterday’s Metro section of the Washington Post read:

“Targeting Smoking, Trans Fat and Cars: Arlington Board Chairman Puts Lifestyle Issues on County’s Agenda.”

The article, reported by Kirsten Downey, admitted, however, it is “an activist, and potentially controversial, agenda for 2008.” Thankfully, Virginia is a Dillon Rule state; consequently, as the Post notes: 

“Arlington could not impose outright bans on trans fat or smoking in public places, as governments elsewhere have done.”

About the targeting of our cars, the Post reports: 

“Board member Jay Fisette (D) will lead Arlington's effort to promote what Tejada called a "car-free diet." Fisette displayed a T-shirt with the slogan, "I lost 2,000 pounds in one day," and referred people to a county Web site, www.carfreediet.com, which calculates how much money people could save by getting rid of their car and how much weight they could lose.”

While the Post focused on how the county plans, Nanny-like, to run our lives, the online Arlington Sun-Gazette noted that new chairman Walter Tejada at least mentioned what most taxpayers consider the important things that county legislator should be concerned with such as crime rates, tax rates, and municipal credit ratings.

For the county’s spin on the Board “life style agenda,” see this press release.

January 02, 2008

Another Congressional Porker Robbing Taxpayers

For its December 2007 Porker of the Month, Citizens Against Government Waste chose Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas):

“for thwarting three amendments to the farm bill that would have provided some modest reform.  Instead, it was a lost opportunity to fix one of the most outdated government programs.”

According to CAGW:

“An amendment offered by Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), would have capped subsidy payments to farmers at $250,000.  Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) attempted to pass a measure that would have set the annual adjusted gross income (AGI) for receiving any benefits at $750,000 and Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-Ohio) amendment would have reformed the crop insurance program.

“Sen. Lincoln, whose family received big farm subsidy payments worth $715,000 between 1995 and 2005, threatened to filibuster the bill.  Because Senate Democratic leaders did not want to be blamed for further delay of the farm bill, they changed the rules to require 60 votes for passage of those three amendments, rather than a simple majority.  The Dorgan-Grassley and Klobuchar amendments received the support of a majority of the senators voting, but they were defeated as they fell short of the manufactured 60-vote requirement.”

The farm subsidies are not fair to either taxpayers or farmers. CAGW explains:

“To claim that farm subsidies are needed to preserve the small family farmer is purely laughable.  The money goes disproportionately to the wealthiest farmers, with little benefit to farmers most in need of help.  Subsidies have proven to be very costly to both taxpayers and consumers and have undermined the rural economy.  Currently, 60 percent of farms either receive no subsidies or less than $2,000 annually.  In 2003, the top 10 percent of farm subsidy recipients collected 72 percent of total subsidies and the top 5 percent collected 55 percent of payments.”

Thanks, Senator Lincoln!

January 01, 2008

Politicians Trying to Have It Both Ways

The editorialists in today’s Virginian Pilot try to justify Gov. Tim Kaine’s grab of money that has been “squirreled away for transportation” with a justification for raising the gas tax by invoking some advice from retiring Sen. John Chichester (R).

A bit of background. Gov. Kaine (D) is trying to find money to pay for two pet projects: pre-kindergarten and mental health programs. Unfortunately, the newspaper reports that “tax collections (have) slowed to a trickle.” At the same time, the paper reports the governor’s position is that it will be a couple of years before construction on the transportation projects can begin, i.e., justifying use of that bankrolled money for his pet project and paying for the transportation projects with future surpluses.

That all nice and good, but if Gov. Kaine wants his pet projects so much, let him propose a tax increase to pay for them rather than trying some budget sleight-of-hands.