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April 30, 2011

Increasing Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming

In testimony concerning the Arlington County Board's efforts to implement a community energy plan, ACTA's president said the Board's "desire to waste tax dollars seems to be the assertion on page ES-1 of the report that “Overwhelming scientific evidence indicates carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels is the major contributor to climate change,” i.e., global warming.

However, Climate Depot has published an exclusive 321-page 'consensus buster' report. According to the introduction of the report:

"More than 1,000 dissenting scientists (updates previous 700 scientist report) from around the globe have now challenged man-made global warming claims made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former Vice President Al Gore. This new 2010 321-page Climate Depot Special Report -- updated from the 2007 groundbreaking U.S. Senate Report of over 400 scientists who voiced skepticism about the so-called global warming “consensus” -- features the skeptical voices of over 1,000 international scientists, including many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN IPCC. This updated 2010 report includes a dramatic increase of over 300 additional (and growing) scientists and climate researchers since the last update in March 2009. This report's release coincides with the 2010 UN global warming summit in being held in Cancun.

"The more than 300 additional scientists added to this report since March 2009 (21 months ago), represents an average of nearly four skeptical scientists a week speaking out publicly. The well over 1,000 dissenting scientists are almost 20 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

"The chorus of skeptical scientific voices grew louder in 2010 as the Climategate scandal -- which involved the upper echelon of UN IPCC scientists -- detonated upon on the international climate movement. "I view Climategate as science fraud, pure and simple," said noted Princeton Physicist Dr. Robert Austin shortly after the scandal broke. Climategate prompted UN IPCC scientists to turn on each other. UN IPCC scientist Eduardo Zorita publicly declared that his Climategate colleagues Michael Mann and Phil Jones "should be barred from the IPCC process...They are not credible anymore." Zorita also noted how insular the IPCC science had become. "By writing these lines I will just probably achieve that a few of my future studies will, again, not see the light of publication," Zorita wrote. A UN lead author Richard Tol grew disillusioned with the IPCC and lamented that it had been "captured" and demanded that "the Chair of IPCC and the Chairs of the IPCC Working Groups should be removed." Tol also publicly called for the "suspension" of IPCC Process in 2010 after being invited by the UN to participate as lead author again in the next IPCC Report. [Note: Zorita and Tol are not included in the count of dissenting scientists in this report.]

"Other UN scientists were more blunt. A South African UN scientist declared the UN IPCC a "worthless carcass" and noted IPCC chair Pachauri is in "disgrace". He also explained that the "fraudulent science continues to be exposed." Alexander, a former member of the UN Scientific and Technical Committee on Natural Disasters harshly critiqued the UN. "'I was subjected to vilification tactics at the time. I persisted. Now, at long last, my persistence has been rewarded...There is no believable evidence to support [the IPCC] claims. I rest my case!" See: S. African UN Scientist Calls it! 'Climate change - RIP: Cause of Death: No scientifically believable evidence...Deliberate manipulation to suit political objectives' [Also see: New Report: UN Scientists Speak Out On Global Warming -- As Skeptics!] Geologist Dr. Don Easterbrook, a professor of geology at Western Washington University, summed up the scandal on December 3, 2010: "The corruption within the IPCC revealed by the Climategate scandal, the doctoring of data and the refusal to admit mistakes have so severely tainted the IPCC that it is no longer a credible agency."

The report then cites comments by several of the scientists that further debunk the assertion that there is a consensus about man-made global warming. Here is just one of them:

"The dysfunctional nature of the climate sciences is nothing short of a scandal. Science is too important for our society to be misused in the way it has been done within the Climate Science Community.” The global warming establishment “has actively suppressed research results presented by researchers that do not comply with the dogma of the IPCC.” -- Swedish Climatologist Dr. Hans Jelbring, of the Paleogeophysics & Geodynamics Unit at Stockholm University. [Updated December 9, 2010. Corrects Jelbring's quote.]"

Based upon a 'debunked consensus," the Arlington County Board wants to wander off into an unsustainable, make-believe, fantasy land. Remember that nothing will be cheap when you're spending other people's money.

April 29, 2011

End The Ethanol Subsidies. Now!

We previously growled about federal energy subsidies on March 19, 2011 after our friends at the National Taxpayers Union released a “coalition letter” telling Congress it’s time to put an end to energy subsidies. In an op-ed in the weekend edition of the Washington Examiner, Diana Furchtgott-Roth makes much the same argument, but focuses on the need to end ethanol subsidies. She writes:

“With gasoline above $4 a gallon, it's time to rethink the $6 billion Uncle Sam spends annually on ethanol subsidies paid to corn growers and ethanol producers.

“Ethanol increases the price of gasoline, pollutes the air, and drives up food costs, as well as increasing the deficit, which this fiscal year stands at $1.6 trillion.

“Ethanol, a corn-based fuel that can be substituted for some of the gasoline needed to operate vehicles. But the gasoline-ethanol blend, currently 10 percent ethanol, lowers vehicles' gas mileage, leaving motorists with higher fuel bills.

“Congress, in the energy bill signed into law in December 2007 by President George W. Bush, agreed to require the use of 14 billion gallons of ethanol or other renewable fuels this year, with quantities gradually increasing to 36 billion gallons in 2022.

“Ethanol producers receive a tax break of 45 cents a gallon, and corn growers receive subsidies that Congress may increase in the next farm bill, in 2012.”

Ms. Furchtgott-Roth points out that because it separates from gasoline in the presence of water, it is costly to ship. In addition, she reports the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to force more ethanol consumption by allowing use of 15% ethanol in newer model cars as opposed to using a 10% blend in older models. Since the 15% ethanol blend can damage older cars, gas stations would have to operate different pumps for the two blends. Finally, the recent GAO report that identified duplicate programs (requires Adobe) found significant potential duplication in the ethanol programs. She summarized her column saying:

“Instead of subsidizing ethanol, America needs to ramp up domestic oil exploration and refining. That will start bringing gasoline prices down.”

Take a few minutes to voice your concerns to the poohbahs on Capitol Hill.

  • Senator Jim Webb (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024.
  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023.
  • Representative Jim Moran (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.

April 28, 2011

Giving Perspective to Oil Industry Profits and Taxes

The Tax Foundation policy blog has two informative posts today. The first discusses the issue of who bears the burden of oil industry taxes. They use a Wall Street Journal chart to show who is driving demand for oil, explaining:

“U.S. demand has flattened out, even decreased in the last year, most likely due to the recession. The emerging economies of Brazil, India, China and Saudi Arabia, however, are projected to see steady demand in oil consumption through 2015.”

Michael Vogler of the Tax Foundation goes on to write:

“As U.S. oil and gas companies attempt to keep up with demand in other parts of the world, they are also seeing their profits taxed heavily both inside and outside the United States. Between the years 1981 – 2008 U.S. oil companies paid roughly $700 billion in taxes to foreign governments.

“Recent evidence from the Energy Information Agency (EIA) shows that government entities in the U.S. are also hugely dependent upon the direct and indirect taxes paid by the largest oil companies.  Net earnings for the largest petroleum companies from 1981-2008 totaled $1.4 trillion and the total amount of taxes collected by U.S. governments from the oil companies in that same time period topped $1.95 trillion, roughly 40% more than the industry’s combined profits.” (emphasis in the original)

In the second post at the Tax Foundation’s tax policy blog, Richard Morrison puts “oil and gas tax treatment in perspective,” given that: “President Obama has repeatedly called for tax provisions targeted at the oil industry to be repealed, including during his State of the Union address in February. Since then the White House has continued to single out oil and gas companies, sending a letter to members of the leadership in Congress this week, urging them to 'eliminate unwarranted tax breaks for the oil and gas industry' and instead increase subsidies for other forms of energy.” Morrison then writes:

“All of this begs the question, how much money are we talking about? According to Fiscal Fact No. 260, “Who Benefits from Corporate ‘Loopholes?’”, there were about $2.2 billion in tax expenditures that were specific to the oil and gas industry in 2010. For some perspective, Special Report No. 183, “Oil Industry Taxes: A Cash Cow for Government,” shows us that in 2008 (the most recent year included) the U.S. oil industry collectively paid over $91.5 billion in domestic taxes. That’s on top of $72 billion paid in foreign taxes on income earned abroad.

“It is true that the oil industry benefits from special tax provisions, but so do many other industries. Many tax benefits are poor policy and should be eliminated. There are also many tax benefits that are not limited to a specific industry, and these too could be scrubbed from the tax code. That is what policy experts are talking about when they discuss corporate tax reform: broadening the tax base by eliminating tax expenditures and lowering the tax rates. This type of reform is needed for the whole system, not just one politically unfavorable industry.”

Ya gotta wonder just how much of that is understood by the elected political elite who determine public policy. The Tax Foundation provides much more research information about energy and the environment. Thanks, Tax Foundation.

UPDATE (4/29/11). Radio talk show host Mark Levin points to a map showing gasoline taxes by state by Mark Perry at DailyMarkets. Perry added a remark from the Exxon Mobil blog that it had "earned a little more than 2 cents per gallon" while state taxes range from 26.4 cents per gallon to 66.1 cents per gallon. (emphasis in the original)

April 27, 2011

ACTA President Testifies on County's Community Energy Plan

At its "recessed" meeting last night, the Arlington County Board voted to "advertise" a "public hearing on transforming (the county's) energy future, according to the county press release issued last night. Below is testimony of ACTA's president made before the Board set Tuesday evening, May 17, as the hearing date. This is in addition to a Planning Commission hearing on May 2 (at 7:00 PM) as well as a County Board work session on May 3 (3:00 - 5:00 PM).

ACTA's president, Tim Wise told the Board:

"As I understand your plan, you are predicting the future of energy and the environment. However, as Yogi Berra once said, “Prediction is hard, especially about the future.”

"I urge you to visit the Reason.tv website, and watch their video entitled, “The Top Five Environmental Disasters that Didn't Happen.” Such predictions as the extinction of 70-80% of all animal species by 1995 or one predicting that crude oil would be used up by the year 2000. The top one, though, is the Malthusian famine. You remember that one -- where Paul Ehrlich predicted in 1968, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970's the world will undergo famines -- hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

"The basis for your desire to waste tax dollars seems to the assertion on page ES-1 that: “Overwhelming scientific evidence indicates carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels is the major contributor to climate change.” As Richard Lindzen, one of the foremost experts on global warming, recently said, “Climate change is the norm. If you want something to worry about, it would be if the climate were static. It would be like a person being dead.”

"More citizens are questioning the conventional wisdom about global warming (here and here). For example, a recent Gallup poll shows significantly fewer Americans feel threatened by global warming, dropping from 63% in 2007 to 53% in 2010. Even in Western Europe, the number has dropped from 66% to 56% over the same period.

"I encourage you to read the op-ed by Dr. Fred Singer published earlier this month by The American Thinker. He argues that ‘sustainable development’ “is basically a slogan without a specific meaning . . . (and) masquerades as a call for clean energy, green energy, and suggests a pristine existence for us and our progeny -- forever.”

"Before you decide to advertise the energy report today, I urge you to talk with some heretics of global warming, and you’ll learn just how smart Yogi Berra really was. You’ll also learn just how wrong “overwhelming scientific evidence” can be.

More information is available at the Community Energy Plan's webpage where you can find the report, including the Executive Summary (as a separate document); the CEP's frequently asked questions (FAQs); and various other documents. In addition, the press release provides links to several documents including the "press kit" on the CEP.

Finally, you can watch the testimony at the Board's "meetings and agendas" webpage. The testimony was limited to three minutes. Click-on "consent agenda" where his comments begin at the 1 hr + 30 min mark.

April 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

“Climate change is the norm. If you want something to worry about, it would be if the climate were static. It would be like a person being dead.”

     ~ Richard Lindzen, as quoted in the first issue of Nature Climate Change.

HT "The Week That Was" at Science & Environmental Policy Project

April 25, 2011

How Dumb Is Our Governmemnt

With America’s economy struggling, not to mention the significant lack of jobs, and with citizens threatened with paying $5.00 for gasoline, environmental bureaucrats in the federal government “may be trying to drastically reduce gas and petroleum production in Southeast New Mexico, and perhaps West Texas for the really important reason of protecting the continuing viability of a creature I'm sure you all know and love, the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard,” according to an item in yesterday’s American Thinker.

The New Mexico Watchdog reported it this way last Friday:

“It’s just a little ole thing — no more than three inches long and its skin practically blends into the dusty ground of southeast New Mexico.

“It’s the dunes sagebrush lizard – known as Sceloporous arenicolus in scientific terms — and the reptile has become the centerpiece of a fight between environmentalists who want to see it put on the endangered species list and supporters of oil and natural gas interests who fear federal protection for a creature so hard to find that almost nobody in the Oil Patch has ever even seen one could shut down an industry vital to the New Mexico economy.

“The US Fish and Wildlife Service says the dunes sagebrush lizard is in danger of extinction in southeast New Mexico and parts of west Texas. Last December, the agency proposed listing the lizard under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which would give the reptile federal protection.

“But the lizard’s habitat includes a large portion of land — much of it on federal property — that is leased by oil and gas companies and some people in the area fear that aggressive enforcement of the Endangered Species Act would threaten their means of making a living.

“Rep. Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico) of the US House of Representatives is leading the charge against placing the lizard on the endangered species list. “Most of the oil and gas jobs in southeast New Mexico are at risk,” Pearce told the Carlsbad Current-Argus in an article published April 18. “In the ’70s, they listed the spotted owl as endangered and it killed the entire timber industry.”

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the lizard “is native to some of the most productive oil-producing regions in the state (and) could have devastating consequences on the economies of the region and the entire state.” And indeed, the oil industry has worked to protect the lizard, as the Sun-News editorial points out:

“The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association has provided money for research and mapping of the area to ensure roads are not built in areas that would disturb the reptile, association President Steve Henke said. And, producers have avoided drilling in the area where the lizard is known to live, he said. "We feel like we can co-exist with the lizard. (But) the Endangered Species Act makes everything cumbersome, lengthy, litigious," he said.”

As Ben Sheppard, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association opines in an MyWestTexas.com op-ed:

“However, the so-called science on which the federal government bases its “guilty until proven innocent” verdict against the energy industry is as dusty as the West Texas desert in which it thrives. Known distributions of the sand dune lizard today are based on data from the 1960s and a handful of recent very small sample studies. According to the federal proposal, much of the lizard’s habitat in Texas is found on private lands, which have yet to be properly surveyed. As well, the public lands surveys are imprecise and incomplete.

[ . . . ]

"Members of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association revere the wonder of our surrounding lands, and many are active leaders in conservation efforts locally and nationally. However, we also believe the industry that sustains eight million jobs in Texas and contributes billions of dollars to local and state budgets --- including the State’s “Economic Stabilization” or Rainy Day Fund --- can co-exist with wildlife.”

Talk about a "caring" government, eh. Sure is something to remember the next time you’re filling-up at more than $4.00 per gallon.

April 24, 2011

Weekend Round-up

In an op-ed in today’s Washington Post’s Outlook section, Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, responds to President Obama’s claim that it’s ‘fair’ to raise taxes on the rich. After providing evidence from several economic studies, he concludes by writing:

“When politicians argue that, for the sake of fairness, we must raise taxes on the entrepreneurial class — and make those “millionaires and billionaires” bring us a few state-subsidized beers on the beach — they are unwittingly undermining the possibility of achieving the opportunity society they regret not having.

“We are not a perfect opportunity society in the United States. But if we want to approach that ideal, we must define fairness as meritocracy, embrace a system that rewards merit, and work tirelessly for true equal opportunity. The system that makes this possible, of course, is free enterprise. When I work harder or longer hours in the free-enterprise system, I am generally paid more than if I work less in the same job. Investments in my education translate into market rewards. Clever ideas usually garner more rewards than bad ones, as judged not by a politburo, but by citizens in the marketplace.

[ . . . ]

“But when a government that has overspent for years turns to tax increases instead of spending cuts simply for the sake of “fairness,” it weakens free enterprise, lowers opportunity and impoverishes us in many ways.

“And that is simply unfair.”

The inimitable Mark Steyn has an op-ed this weekend at National Review Online in which he asks how much longer can the dollar remain the world’s currency standard. Steyn predicts that by 2023, “the dollar will no longer be the global reserve currency, and concludes saying:

“. . . Forty years ago, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Connally told Europe that the dollar is “our currency but your problem.” The rest of the world is now inverting the proposition: The dollar is our problem but, in the end, it’s your currency, not ours. In Beijing, in Delhi, in Riyadh, in Rio, the rest of the planet is moving relentlessly toward a post-dollar regime.

“What will America look like without the dollar as global currency? My old boss Conrad Black recently characterized what’s happened over the last half-century as a synchronized group devaluation by Western currencies. That’s a useful way of looking at it. What obscured it was the dollar’s global role. When the dollar’s role is ended, the reality of a comatose “superpower” living off a fifth of a billion in borrowed dollars every single hour of the day is harder to obscure.

“In the absence of responsible American leadership, the most important decisions about your future will be made by foreigners for whom fatuous jingles about “shared values” have less resonance. If you don’t want the certainty of a poorer, more decrepit, more diseased, more violent America, you need to demand your politicians act now — or there won’t be a 2023.”

Finally, Gallup provided poll results on April 14, 2011 that highlighted the “partisan and class gulf in Americans' views on taxing the rich.” According to Gallup:

“Substantial majorities of Democrats and of those with low incomes endorse the idea of redistributing wealth by heavy taxes on the rich. Two-thirds or more of Republicans and of those with higher incomes disagree.”

To reduce the partisanship and class gulf, provide copies of Brooks’ and Steyn’s op-eds to some of your Arlington neighbors.

April 23, 2011

Exploding Urban Legends

The editorial in this weekend's edition of the Washington Examiner sets out to show how facts can explode the urban legends of the Left. In their lede, they write:

"Liberals cannot seem to comprehend any policy issue without first identifying themselves as the good guys and somebody else as the bad guys who are to be demonized."

Here a villain, there a villain, the editorial points out: "In health care, the villains are the insurance companies; in finance, Goldman Sachs; and in energy and politics it is the Koch brothers, Charles and David." After noting a claim by the far Left's Nation magazine that the Koch brothers were practicing 'thought control' on their employees, the editorial explodes the myth by writing:

"The Koch legend has become so powerful on the Left that it has become conventional wisdom that the main reason environmentalists failed to pass cap and trade in the last Congress is because they were outspent by the Kochs, with their sinister network of foundations and activist groups on the Right. But now comes an exhaustive new 84-page study by American University public policy communications scholar Matthew Nisbet that documents the false nature of such claims. According to Nisbet, nine liberal foundations spent at least $368 million promoting cap-and-trade-like policies between 2008 and 2010. In contrast, Koch-affiliated foundations spent only $31.3 million."

Ah yes, urban legends. Indeed!

April 22, 2011

Reeking of Pork

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced their April 2011 Porker of the Month yesterday. 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." In their press release, CAGW wrote:

". . . named Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) its April 2011 Porker of the Month for threatening to bring the Senate to a standstill over a $40,000 earmark for a federal study on deepening the port of Charleston.  The study would investigate the effectiveness of deepening the port from 47 feet to 50 feet, an improvement that Sen. Graham claims will allow it to accommodate the types of ships that will “dominate shipping lanes” in the future.  The earmark began as a $400,000 request that was rejected by the Senate Appropriations Committee in October, 2010.  There was also no money for the project in the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget.  Sen. Graham reduced his request to $40,000, but even that amount was not included in Congress’s FY 2011Continuing Resolution."

CAGW then went on to say:

"On April 11, 2011, Sen. Graham threw a fit over the failure to fund the project, telling reporters that he would “tie the Senate in knots” until the port study money was approved.  On April 12, he tweeted, “No nominations go forward in Senate until we address CHS port.”  Unfortunately, the tantrum paid off.  Despite Congress’s ongoing earmark moratorium, on April 15 Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged on the Senate floor that he would find funding for the study before the end of FY 2011.  Sen. Reid stated that the money would “not be limited to South Carolina,” since Charleston is just one of 12 eligible recipient cities, but Sen. Graham was satisfied enough to stop his protest, indicating that he knows full well where the cash will land.  The deepening of Charleston’s port is expected to cost $350 million.

"The senator from South Carolina is no stranger to pork-barrel spending.  His earmark requests totaled $78.9 million in FY 2010 and $126 million in FY 2009.  Sen. Graham has claimed through his website that “260,800 jobs, $11.8 billion in wages, and $1.5 billion in state and local taxes” hinge on the Port of Charleston’s improvements.

This project and the study it requires both reek of pork,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz.  “If the benefits to South Carolina even approach the numbers cited by Sen. Graham, private backers and the state government should be chomping at the bit to fund it themselves.  Instead, taxpayers everywhere will pay for a study, the results of which are a foregone conclusion – it will prove the importance of upgrading the port and cost taxpayers much more money." (emphasis added)

Here is the link to reach Senator Graham's office. His office phone number on Capitol Hill is (202) 224-5972.

April 21, 2011

Who Pays Federal Income Taxes and How Much?

With all the talk about taxing the rich, it might be worthwhile to actually look at just who does pay income taxes and how much? The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has posted the lates data for 2008, which provides that information. They provide the percentiles ranked by Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), the AGI thresholds for the top 1%, top 5%, top 10%, etc., and the percentage of Federal personal income taxes paid.

For 2008, the numbers were:

  • Top 1%. AGI Threshold - >$380,354. Percentage of Federal Income Taxes Paid - 38.02%.
  • Top 5%. AGI Threshold - $159,619.  Percentage of Federal Income Taxes Paid - 58.72%.
  • Top 10%. AGI Threshold - $113,799.  Percentage of Federal Income Taxes Paid - 69.64.
  • Top 25%. AGI Threshold - $67,280.  Percentage of Federal Income Taxes Paid - 86.34%.
  • Bottom 50%. AGI Threshold - <$33,048. Percentage of Federal Income Taxes Paid - 2.7%.

Take a look at the NTU webpage since the tables go back to 1999. You'll see  the AGI threshold for 2008 dropped by almost $30,000 from 2007 while the percentage of taxes paid by the top 1% slowly rose from 36.18% in 1999 to 40.42% in 2007 before dropping in 2008. Looks like "the rich" are already paying more than their "fair share." Rather, the problem sure seems to be the Federal gummint is spending way too much.

April 20, 2011

$2 Million of your Tax Dollars

Scott McCaffrey reported yesterday in the online Arlington Sun Gazette that spending by the Arlington County Board on the HOT-Lanes lawsuit "cozies" up to the $2 million mark. McCaffrey goes on to report that although state officials are abandoning plans for the HOT-lanes projects, " the legal fees have declined, but not disappeared. The county was billed $63,317.67 for work done by lawyers in February." Here's a brief summary of McCaffrey's reporting:

"The County Board’s lawsuit against federal and state officials over the proposed high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes on Interstates 95 and 395 has cost local taxpayers nearly $2 million in fees to a D.C. law firm, but the pace of the spending has slowed significantly now that the HOT-lanes proposal has been abandoned.

"The county government was billed just over $730,000 in legal fees and costs for the seven months ending Feb. 28, according to documents provided by the government to the Sun Gazette. Added to previous spending, payments to the Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis law firm have reached $1.96 million.

"County Board members in 2009 sued the federal and state governments, as well as several public officials, claiming that an environmental-studies exemption to the HOT-lanes project from Dumfries north to Arlington was improperly granted. A federal judge attempted to get the county government to work out a compromise with the defendants - including the Federal Highway Administration and the Virginia Department of Transportation - but to no avail."

McCaffrey also points out, "The most controversial aspect of the lawsuit was the county government’s suing of several officials in their individual capacities, suggesting that they had violated federal civil-rights statutes in their decision-making . . . because the highways would benefit predominantly white residents of the outer suburbs, the proposal had racist overtones - provoking howls of both derision and outrage from state officials and those in other localities." However, McCaffrey also reported, "County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said the intent was never to label anyone racist or to seek monetary damages from the defendants."

Talk about representative government? Better question, just who is being represented by the Board's panjandrums? Is it the average Arlington taxpayer? Besides, it's all their money, isn't it?

April 19, 2011

Review of Virginia State Spending: 2010 Update

The Virginia General Assembly's Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) released their latest report on state spending last December (requires Adobe). The report is the tenth in a series that requires JLARC "to develop an annual reportt on State spending growth and to identify the largest and fastest growing functions in the State budget." Here are the four key findings from the report:

  • Over the past decade, Virginia’s total operating budget has increased 59 percent—a 20 percent increase in general funds and a 103 percent increase in non-general funds. However, Virginia’s budget growth has slowed as a result of the State’s general fund experiencing a decline over the last three fiscal years. (Chapter 1)
  • Adjusting for the effects of inflation (which increased 23 percent between 2001 and 2010) and population growth (Virginia’s population grew ten percent over the period), the total budget and the non-general fund increased by 19 percent and 51 percent, respectively. In comparison, the State’s general fund experienced a decline of ten percent on this basis over the ten-year period. (Chapter 1)
  • Budget growth over the last decade remains concentrated in a few State agencies and programs. Eight of the 156 agencies accounted for nearly 70 percent of all budget growth over the past ten years. Of the 207 budget programs, three—in health care, education, and transportation—accounted for nearly 60 percent of all budget growth during the period. (Chapter 2)
  • The general fund growth rates of 23 agencies exceeded the overall general fund growth rate of 20 percent from FY 2001 to FY 2010. General fund budget growth during the ten-year period was dominated by a few large agencies, reflecting policy decisions and initiatives of the Governor and General Assembly during theperiod. The general fund appropriation of 51 agencies grew more slowly than inflation or decreased over the ten-year period. (Chapter 2)
The report also notes that Virginia's budget growth has slowed in recent years and that most budget growth occurs in a few state agencies. It's worth taking a few minutes to study the report to understand where your state taxes are being spent.

By the way, we growled on the prior year's JLARC report on November 12, 2009.

April 18, 2011

S&P Downgrade of U.S. Debt

Did you ever think that U.S. debt would be downgraded in your lifetime? Here’s the background according to Damian Paletta of the Wall Street Journal today:

“A stark warning from a credit-rating firm about the U.S. government's fiscal problems stoked concern on Wall Street and in Washington on Monday, pushing global stock markets lower and intensifying political divisions about the best way to tackle the country's growing deficits.

“While S&P didn't change its triple-A bond rating for the U.S. government, the move was enough to send the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling almost 250 points at one point Monday.

“S&P questioned whether the White House and Republicans would be able to reach an agreement before the 2012 presidential elections on a plan to rein in deficits. This year's shortfall is projected to be about $1.5 trillion, roughly 10% of the country's gross domestic product.”

In a Reuters story posted at Investor’s Business Daily today, the news organization noted that Treasury bond prices rose on the S&P warnings about U.S. debt, adding:

“While S&P affirmed its AAA sovereign credit rating on the United States, it said very large U.S. budget deficits, rising government indebtedness, and the lack of a clear path to addressing these issues, signaled there was at least a one-in-three likelihood that it could lower its long-term rating on the U.S. within two years.” (emphasis added)

Peter Schiff, blogging at Forbes this afternoon, questions the action by S&P, saying: “The only thing more ridiculous than S&P’s too-little, too-late semi-downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt was the market’s severe reaction to the announcement.” He went on  to write:

“In its analysis of U.S. solvency, S&P typically factors in the government’s ability to print its way out of any fiscal jam. As a result, it applies a very different set of criteria in its analysis of investment risk than it would for a private company, or even a government whose currency has no reserve status. But the agency completely fails to consider how reckless printing will impact the value of the dollar itself. It can assure investors that they will be repaid, but the agency doesn’t spare a thought about what if anything our creditors may be able to buy with their dollars.”

Great news on the day that taxpayers must file their 2010 federal tax returns. Not!

UPDATE (4/18/11): Reuters also reported, "The Obama administration moved swiftly on Monday to downplay ratings agency S&P's downgrade of its U.S. credit outlook, calling the decision a political judgment that should not be taken too seriously." They added:

The timing of S&P's announcement was unwelcome for the White House, coming just as President Barack Obama tried to regain the initiative on the deficit debate in Washington.

Last week Obama laid out his plan to reduce the budget deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, trying to give markets confidence that he was serious about tackling U.S. fiscal woes.

Standard & Poor's downgraded the outlook for the United States to negative, saying it believes there is a risk U.S. policymakers would not reach agreement on how to address the country's long-term fiscal pressures by 2013.

April 17, 2011

Income and Poverty Census Data for Arlington County

According to an overview report using census data from the 2005-2009 American Community Survey, published by Arlington County's Planning Division in February 2011, "Arlington’s median household income in the past 12 months is estimated to be $93,806." Figure 19 on page 12 provides details on the estimated household income during the past 12 months, and show:

  • Less than $25,000 -- 10.1%
  • $25,000 to $49,999 -- 12.5%
  • $50,000 to $74,999 -- 15.9%
  • $75,000 to $99,999 -- 15.0%
  • $100,000 to $199,999 -- 32.1%
  • $200,000 and above -- 14.3%

Poverty statistics are also reported in the county publication.  According to the census overview, "the 2009 poverty threshold for a family of four people with two children under the age of 18 is $21,756. The report shows that "only 7.2 percent of residents living below poverty; of those living below the poverty level, 12.2% are 65 or older.

Take a few minutes to scan the overview for other census data. More detailed data census data for Arlington County will be presented later in the year, including more detailed income and poverty statistics.

April 16, 2011

Kubicki Garners Highest Civic Federation Award

Wayne Kubicki is one of ACTA's delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation, and is arguably the county's top budget watchdog. At the Civic Federation's annual banquet on April 8, he was presented with the organization's Order of Distinguished Meritorious Service award.

As the Arlington Sun Gazette noted in the cover story of this week's edition, it is only the 23rd time since 1936 that the Federation has awarded it's highest honor. In making the award, the Federation said (Adobe required):

"Wayne is one of a rare group: individuals who authoritatively understand the complexities of an important county process and who are willing to work with concerned citizens to analyze and make recommendations for public review and comment. Wayne’s specific and long-term contribution has been to enable educated public debate on perhaps the most critical County function of all, the budget. We all know that ACCF, by informing the public, and by enabling educated debate on critical policy, makes for better community decisions and thus a better community."

A list of all recipients of the Order of Distinguished Meritorious Service are listed here. A 12-picture slide-show from the annual banquet is here (Wayne is in picture 9 of 13); that's in addition to the picture in the Sun Gazette's news article.

April 15, 2011

Arlington County Tax Rate Set To Jump By 5.6%

The Arlington County Board is set to adopt the FY 2012 budget tomorrow morning that will include an effective increase of 5.6% in the real estate tax rate. (Back on February 19, 2011, we growled on how to compute the effective tax rate.) However, here’s how the county spinners described the increase in the real estate tax rate in a press release yesterday:

"Real estate tax rate unchanged

“The real estate tax rate will remain the same, 95.8 cents per $100 of assessed value (including the sanitary district tax). The overall tax and fee burden for the average Arlington homeowner will increase 1.4% -- or about $7 a month -- due to increases in real estate assessments. The increase is less than the current Baltimore-Washington region inflation rate of 2.3%.”

The press release also provides a link to a three-page County Board document that provides details on most of “the Board’s adjustments.” These include “an additional $2.8 million for safety net and critical support for human services, housing, and related programs,” which was over-and-above the $11 million in the Manager’s proposed budget. The Board also added $1.5 million for a total of $5.5 million in to the affordable housing fund, and allocated $507,000 for mental health and substance abuse, as requested by the Community Services Board. Finally, the Board made several restorations to services eliminated in the prior year.

Take a few minutes to read the Board’s entire list of adjustments!

April 14, 2011

"Tax Expenditures" are Spending?

Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation, asks whether “‘tax expenditures’ (are) really spending in the tax code” at their Tax Policy Blog today. He first notes:

“During his speech yesterday, President Obama made a big point of how he would take on "tax expenditures," what he calls "spending in the tax code."
“What are tax expenditures and what does the President mean by "spending in the tax code"? This was one of the topics I addressed during my recent testimony before the Senate Budget Committee.”
He then includes pertinent portions from his testimony before the Senate Budget Committee:
“According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, "tax expenditures include any reductions in income tax liabilities that result from special tax provisions or regulations that provide tax benefits to particular taxpayers."[i]  These special preferences are called tax expenditures because some people consider them the equivalent of direct spending through the tax code.
“However, aside from the refundable cash outlay portion of some credits, tax expenditures are really not the same as direct spending. Instead, they are an attempt to achieve certain public policy goals by inducing or incenting taxpayers with the prospect of a lower tax bill. Essentially, lawmakers are trying to get taxpayers to achieve these policy objectives by using their own money, not "the government's."
“To be sure, many people improperly view the forgone revenue from tax expenditures as "the government's money." By this view, what the tax code allows taxpayers to keep through tax preferences has thus been "spent" in the same manner as a government program.
“But there is a very real moral and functional difference between the government taking $1,000 from a taxpayer and giving it to the Department of Energy for switch grass research, and a tax preference which allows that taxpayer to keep $1,000 of his own money because he purchased new windows for his home. The tax credit may be poor tax policy, but the transaction is clearly one that the taxpayer chose of his own accord. The government did not actively take his money and give it to Home Depot for the new windows.”
Before concluding, “The primary goal should be to promote long-term economic growth and better living standards for the American people,” Hodge points out:
“The President and many in his party are very cleverly trying to shift the terms of the debate. It is obvious that they believe that Americans will not accept higher taxes, unless of course they are on the "rich." And they know people will not easily give up such things as the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local tax deduction. However, if the universe of tax deductions can be recast as "spending in the tax code," then cutting them will sound fiscally responsible.”

As noted before, we're still unable to provide "links" to the source webpages we reference. UPDATE (April 15, 2911), Thanks to the help of Larry Mayer, I finally downloaded an earlier version of Firefox so that I can "insert" links into Growls blogs.

April 13, 2011

Quote of the Day

"It so happens that many — if not most — of those called "the rich" are not rich and many, if not most, of those called "the poor" are not poor. They are people who happen to be in a particular part of the income stream as of a given moment in their lives when statistics are collected.

"Internal Revenue Service data show that the income of people who were in the lowest income tax bracket in 1996 rose by 91% by 2005. But people in the "top one percent" had their incomes drop by 26%in those same years.

"There is nothing complicated about this. Most people simply start at the bottom when they are young and their pay rises as they get more experience. Most people in the top 1% are there for only a single year when they happen to have a spike in income. They too are not an enduring class.

"The time is long overdue to start thinking about taxes as sources of revenue, not as ways of making political statements."

    ~ Thomas Sowell

HT Investor's Business Daily Column

April 12, 2011

Quote of the Day

We've use the following Alexander Tytler quotation before, but it's well-worth repeating. Given our reference to Robert Samuelson's "suicidal government" column yesterday, and his discussion that as many as three-quarters of all Americans are dependent in some way on the federal government, repeating the Alexander Tytler quotation below seems especially timely.

 "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury."

~ Alexander Tytler

HT Page 60, "As Certain As Death: Quotations About Taxes, Tax Analysts.com

April 11, 2011

Suicidal Government?

If you are concerned about the future of America, especially its economic future, Robert Samuelson has a “must read” column in the editorial pages of today’s Washington Post. The column begins this way:

“We in America have created suicidal government; the threatened federal shutdown and stubborn budget deficits are but symptoms. By suicidal, I mean that government has promised more than it can realistically deliver and, as a result, repeatedly disappoints by providing less than people expect or jeopardizing what they already have. But government can’t easily correct its excesses, because Americans depend on it for so much that any effort to change the status arouses a firestorm of opposition that virtually ensures defeat. Government’s very expansion has brought it into disrepute, paralyzed politics and impeded it from acting in the national interest.”

Samuelson continues by explaining just how dependent Americans are on government, writing that almost half receive at least one federal benefits, e.g., Social Security, food stamps, etc. Add-in tax breaks. e.g., mortgage interest deduction, and the number of people dependent on the federal government grows to almost 3/4 of all Americans. He concludes the column explaining just why government can be suicidal, writing:

“Government is suicidal because it breeds expectations that cannot be met. All the partisan skirmishing over who gets credit for averting a shutdown misses the larger issue: whether we can restore government as an instrument of progress or whether it remains — as it is now — a threat.”

April 10, 2011

Where County Employees Live?

During the County Board’s March 17, 2011 compensation work session, one Board member asked where County employees live. In a April 4, 2011 follow-up response by Human Resources Department staff (available at the FY 2012 County Board work sessions follow-up webpage), we learn that 77% of the employees live in Virginia, almost 17% live in Maryland, almost 5% live in the District, and 1.45% live outside Virginia, Maryland and the District. A further breakdown of employees living in Virginia and Maryland shows:

  • Virginia. Of the 77.04% of employees who live in Virginia, 25.15% of all employees live in Arlington, 22.95% live in Fairfax County or Falls Church, 8.36% live in Alexandria, and 20.55% live in other Virginia counties, i.e., “need to drive through Fairfax and/or Alexandria.
  • Maryland. 586 of all County employees, or 16.96% live in Maryland. Of  those, 9.18% of all County employees live in Prince George’s County, 3.36% in Montgomery County, and 4.43% in other Maryland counties.

As noted yesterday, we're still unable to provide "links" to the source webpages we reference.

April 09, 2011

Our Out-of-Touch Congress?

The ‘mainstream media’ is falling all over itself reporting the “deal” to avert a shutdown of the federal government, which would have begun at 12:01 A.M. today. To see how out of touch Congress is regarding America’s coming fiscal armageddon, one need look no further than a news item reported by Terry Jeffrey in today’s CNSNews.com:

“The federal debt increased $54.1 billion in the eight days preceding the deal made by President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) to cut $38.5 billion in federal spending for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, which runs through September.

“The debt was $14.2101 trillion on March 30, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, and $14.2642 on April 7.”

Note: I am encountering difficulty inserting links (technically the URLs) that enable readers to “link to” the source documents that are generally the basis for growling. You can try using Google to reach the cited reference. I am attempting to fix the problem as quickly as I can.

April 08, 2011

Quote of the Day

"One of the secrets of the growth of the welfare state is that politicians get a lot of mileage out of making promises, without setting aside enough money to fulfill those promises."

     ~ Thomas Sowell

HT Townhall.com column, 4/5/11

April 07, 2011

Quote of the Day

"When someone gives you a check and the bank informs you that there are insufficient funds, whom do you get mad at? In your own life, you get mad at the guy who gave you the check that bounced, not at the bank. But, in politics, you get mad at whoever tells you that there is no money."

     ~ Thomas Sowell

HT Investor's Business Daily Column, 4/5/11

April 06, 2011

After the Welfare State

In Monday’s Wall Street Journal’s ($) “Main Street” column, entitled “After the Welfare State,” Bill McGurn suggests the welfare states “(f)rom Albany to Athens” have “run aground -- morally, socially, and fiscally,” and adds, "Less clear is what’s going to replace it.” McGurn goes on to introduce the column this way:

“Today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan gives a hint at the possibilities. Over the next few weeks, the Beltway will consume itself defending or defenestrating his numbers and projections. Yet Mr. Ryan's budget is less about dollars and cents than the assumption behind them: that the best way to help Americans is to increase their access to the market rather than try to shield them from it.

“The implications of that assumption are fleshed out in a prescient essay in the spring issue of National Affairs called "Beyond the Welfare State." Written by a former White House colleague of mine, Yuval Levin, it argues that the moment is ripe for conservatives to address the primary failure of the welfare state: a vision of man that is too narrow, tethered to a trust in government that is too high.”

According to McGurn, both liberals and conservatives have strengths that need to be considered to get us beyond the welfare state. Liberals, he says, overlook their ability to set goals for society. For example, a dignified retirement or a decent education for every child. Conservatives, on the other hand, offer “a better "how"—a road map that lets us balance our care for fellow citizens without wrecking the economy, ruining families, or giving birth to more soulless bureaucracies.” McGurn says. “Think of it this way. Even Milton Friedman's proposal for school vouchers, which would still see the state providing an education for all children, is essentially a "how" argument. He concludes the piece this way:

“Liberals tend to oppose even these improvements. Sadly, they've become wed to the welfare state's most debilitating premise—that the sole provider for some of the most important goods and services must be the most inefficient institution in American life: the government. Mr. Ryan's budget does not have an answer for all the problems caused by the collapse of the welfare state at the federal, state and city levels. But he sure has fired up a long-overdue debate.”

If you don’t have a subscription to the Journal, check out Mr. McGurn's "Main Street" op-ed on your next visit to the library.

April 05, 2011

Conversation With The County Board Chairman

Yesterday, ARLnow reported on the “small business ‘listening session’” held by the chairman of the Arlington County Board at the Clarendon Ballroom with more than 50 “business owners.” It was one of several sessions “to make Arlington business-friendly.” ARLnow reported:

“Among the things business owners liked about doing business in Arlington were the friendly personal interactions with county employees, the frequent county programs that teach you how to create a business plan, and the relative ease of running a home-based business. As expected, however, complaints far out-numbered compliments.

“There was discussion of the advantages larger businesses have over smaller businesses when trying to navigate the county’s regulations and talk of loosening regulations preventing small businesses from participating in certain citizen-oriented programs. By and large, however, the discussion focused on three areas: clarity and accessibility of information, taxes and fees, and the county’s controversial sign ordinance.”

ARLnow’s headline reported the major topics as  taxes and the sign ordinance. Although there was more talk about the “much-maligned” sign ordinance, here’s what ARLnow reported about taxes:

“Taxes and fees were another lively topic of discussion. Business owners lamented that they’re charged fees for business licenses based on their gross revenue, rather than on their profits. That puts large, low-profit-margin businesses at a disadvantage, some said. Business owners also decried the various increases in taxes and fees levied over the past couple of years.

“Sometimes it feels like as an Arlington business, we’re the ATM machine for Arlington County,” the owner of a small grocery store said. Other business owners specifically criticized Arlington’s business tangible property tax, which forces businesses to pay a percentage of the value of their computers, furniture and other business property. While every locality in Virginia has the tax, business owner said it actually discourages investment — a “disincentive to do the right thing.” (emphasis added)

ATM for Arlington County, eh? It’s not just Arlington businesses that should feel that way. Most of the five panjandrums see all of Arlington taxpayers that way.

April 04, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. In area after area - crime, education, housing, race relations - the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them." (emphasis in the source)

   ~ Thomas Sowell

HT: Carpe Diem

April 03, 2011

How much does the U.S. lean on the rich?

Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation, had a great blog posting on March 21, 2011 in which he followed up on a question he was asked during his recent testimony before the Senate Budget Committee. Hodge wrote his testimony prompted “one Senator to point out that if the richest 10% of taxpayers earn the most of any OECD country, shouldn't it make sense that they bear the largest tax burden of any country?” Hodge explained his response further, writing:

“The answer can be found in the OECD table below. This table shows the share of taxes paid by the richest 10 percent of households, the share of all market income earned by that group, and the ratio of what that 10 percent of households pays in taxes versus what they earn as a share of the nation's income.

“The first column shows that the top 10 percent of households in the U.S. pays 45.1 percent of all income taxes (both personal income and payroll taxes combined) in the country.  Italy is the only other country in which the top 10 percent of households pays more than 40 percent of the income tax burden (42.2%). Meanwhile, the average tax burden for the top decile of households in OECD countries is 31.6 percent.”

Hodge concluded the post writing the following:

“Interestingly, countries with top personal income tax rates that are higher than in the U.S., such as Germany, France, or Sweden, have ratios that are closer to 1 to 1. Meaning, the share of the tax burden paid by the richest decile in those countries is roughly equal to their share of the nation's income. By contrast, we prefer to have the wealthiest households in this country pay a share of the tax burden that is one-third greater than their share of the nation's income.”

Talk about the need for tax reform! The class-warfare left should be happy, though.

April 02, 2011

Arlington Taxpayers Get Hit By Arlogance

Yesterday, Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette asked at his blog “Editor’s Notebook” whether Arlington government’s new Artisphere cultural-arts center is “already on life support?” After all, it opened only last October. McCaffrey writes:

“Expenses are far above projections and revenue is well below what had been anticipated, meaning county officials will need to dip heavily into tax funds to subsidize operations over the next year or more, and maybe indefinitely. Already gone are the live bands for “salsa night,” replaced by a much-less-expensive DJ.

“The Rosslyn facility may end up getting itself righted, or may wind up being the type of boondoggle that happens when grand expectations come into conflict with grim reality. Until we know for sure one way or another, county taxpayers will be footing the bill to cover the costs, as government leaders don’t appear to be willing (yet) to downscale operations.

“Perhaps the most illuminating nugget in a dire economic update put out by the county government was this: Part of the increase in operating costs came about because staff had to be hired at rates above what had been budgeted."

The online ARL.now also wrote yesterday:

“In a presentation to the county board yesterday, county staff revealed that Artisphere admission and ticket income is projected at $174,202 for the financial year ending on June 30, 75 percent below the $789,912 in revenue that planners expected.

“The shortfall was first reported in the Sun Gazette Editor’s Notebook blog.

“Located in Rosslyn, Artisphere opened on Oct. 10 as the county’s premier arts and entertainment venue. The county originally expected Artisphere would attract 250,000 annual visitors. Since opening, it has attracted 48,169 visitors.

[ . . . ]

“For FY 2012, staff is projecting that admission and ticketing revenue will fall $455,000 short of original expectations, while expenses will be $462,000 higher than expectations. One bright spot is fundraising, which is now expected to come in at $200,000 above projections. All told, staff expects Artisphere will need another $791,1356 in taxpayer support above and beyond the County Manager’s proposed FY 2012 budget.

“County spokeswoman Diana Sun says Artisphere’s budget situation “has everyone’s attention.”

For the March 30, 2011 paper on the Artispere prepared by the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, visit the County Board Work Session Follow-up webpage.

Ah, the arrogance of Arlington’s five panjandrums never ceases to amaze. If the coming Artisphere taxpayer boondoggle upsets you, e-mail your concern to the Arlington County Board, or you can call them at 703-228-3130.

UPDATE (4/2/11): Further information on the history of County Board action regarding the Artisphere can be found at the Artisphere's webpage. A July 14, 2009 county press release announced the Board's approval of the cultural center, including "free rent worth up to $15.2 million." as well as the "financial safeguards" demanded by one Board member. A second press release, dated January 26, 2010, announced the Board had approved the "public's choice" of a name for the center. Included on the Artisphere webpage are the "county objectives" for the center and information about the center's management.

UPDATE (4/3/11): I have been reminded the Artisphere is literally "in the shadow" of the million-dollar monument to Arlogance -- the Loop Bridge, which combined underestimates of the cost, overestimation of the "need," and incompetence in the execution. That only a few yards from that multimillion-dollar sink hole, Arlington's royals could have been permitted to dump what will soon be another milliondollar-dollar plus on an unneeded arts center (a short, subsidized Metro ride from more theatres than almost anyplace in the world), based upon unreasonably optimistic projections of revenues and costs shows that Arlington County is in severe need of a cure for Arlogance -- an IG being the most logical approach -- before we join the many other failing communities of the rust belt.

UPDATE (4/16/11): This week's edition of the Arlington Sun Gazette editorializes on the Artisphere, saying the "Artisphere debacle should be a warning sign," and concludes saying: "One financial black hole is enough; we do not need more."

April 01, 2011

The Value Of Working ‘For The Children’

At the Arlington County Board’s first budget work session on February 8, one Board member asked for information “regarding the relative difference between the County and Schools’s percent increase for steps.” The answer is provided in a “follow-up” paper (entitled "County and Schools Step Increases," at Human Resources Department), dated March 14, 2011. Following is staff’s introductory to their response to the Board member’s question, which you can find at the "County Board work session follow-up webpage:

“Several factors impact an employee’s lifetime earnings, including size of the pay range, value of step increases, and the number of years to reach the maximum of a salary range.  Based on the Human Resources Department’s analysis, local government and school systems develop and operate their compensation systems independently.  While there is some common ground, ultimately the school systems design their programs to attract and retain employees in a different market than local government, particularly for the teaching profession.”

The response distinguished between employees of Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools versus other jurisdictions. To help distinguish between Arlington’s County employment steps and those of Arlington Public Schools, staff provided a helpful table showing 1) pay range from minimum to maximum; 2) years to reach maximum; 3) step values; 4) total earnings over 18 years; and 5) difference in earnings over 18 years. The two primary points in the staff response were:

“Arlington Public Schools (APS) has multiple pay scales covering various groups of employees, whereas Arlington County has only one pay scale. This analysis uses the APS teacher’s pay scale and the pay scale covering Schools trades/custodial workers.

“Step increases are typically given annually, either on an employee’s anniversary date (for County employees) or a common date for school employees (e.g., beginning of a school year). The resulting differences in earnings are shown in the table on the next page.

  • The scales for County and APS general employees are similar in pay range and actual step value. The difference between these two scales is that the value of steps for County employees declines over time, while the APS general employee scale remains steady for the first 10 years and then declines.
  • The differences between the County  employee and APS teacher scale are significant. The APS teacher pay range is 25% larger, there are more steps, steps are of higher value, and the value of steps remains steady over 11 years of a teacher’s career.

In addition, the staff response includes step information about both governement and school employees in Alexandria and Fairfax, and a chart showing “the cumulative effect of step increases on a $40,000/year county employee and teacher in Alexandria, Arlington County, and Fairfax County.