« January 2017 | Main | March 2017 »

February 28, 2017

Special Bond Referendum for Metro Likely Not Needed

 "Arlington will not need special bond referendum to fund Metro request," according to Scott McCaffrey in the online Arlington Sun Gazette today.

McCaffrey explained in part:

"Despite the increasing needs of the region’s beleaguered Metro system, Arlington County officials say they will not have to go to voters in a special bond referendum to meet the transit agency’s capital-spending request – at least not in the short term.

"The general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has requested that localities across the region pitch in to provide increased spending for annual operating costs and capital projects for the transit agency, which in recent years has been hemorrhaging riders and cash.

"In his proposed fiscal 2018 budget, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz recommends meeting the short-term request, although he voiced skepticism of the sustainability of more local funding in future years.

"Arlington funds its share of Metro operational costs out of the local government’s annual budget. Capital spending is funded through bond referendums sent to voters every two years.

"Officials with the county government’s Department of Management and Finance say the higher capital spending in fiscal 2018 will not require an additional referendum prior to 2018, when the next one is scheduled. County officials say they have enough bond funds still remaining (though not yet sold) from a 2014 transportation referendum to cover the request."

Congratulations to the Department of Management and Finance (DM&F) officials for finding those "remaining bond funds." Makes a taxpayer wonder just how many other funds are squirreled away on the county's books. Or, perhaps, it helps explain why the analysis of county reserves, called for in the Board's "guidance and notes" to the Adopted FY 2017 Budget, that was originally due October 31, will not be presented to the County Board until one of its planned budget work sessions.

Growls readers who are Arlington County taxpayers should contact the Arlington County Board with any questions about bond referenda or county reserves. Just click-on the following link to send the Board a message:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 27, 2017

Schools Superintendent Presents $617 Million Budget

Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette reported today on the Superintendent's proposed FY 2018 budget for the Arlington Public Schools (APS), writing:

"Per-student spending for Arlington’s public schools would rise 2.9 percent to $19,521 under Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget, which – accompanied by a $14 million gap between revenues and expenses – was delivered to School Board members Feb. 23. (emphasis added)

"Murphy is seeking $617 million to fund the school system for the 2017-18 school year, which would permit the school district to “move forward with the excellence that we have here,” the superintendent said.

"The catch: Murphy’s proposed budget includes only $603 million in revenues. The county government provides about 80 percent of school-system funding, with the state government kicking in about 12 percent. Federal funding and fees make up most of the rest.

"In case the budget gap can’t be bridged with additional funding, the superintendent outlined just over $12 million in potential cuts spread over three tiers."

He adds:

"Murphy’s budget proposal tiptoes up to, but does not cross, the previous all-time-high per-student cost, set before the recession during the tenure of his predecessor, Robert Smith. But the proposed increase likely means Arlington will retain the highest per-student costs in the Washington suburbs."

The APS press release, issued after the Superintendent presented his proposed budget last Thursday, includes the possible strategies for closing the $14 million funding gap. For example, reducing assigned cell phones, eliminating the so-called "Live Where You Work" program, and postponing salary step increases.

The press release links to a proposed FY 2018 budget webpage that includes links to the Superintendent's FY 2018 proposed budget presentation, the budget document, and a FY 2018 budget video. You can also access the Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) guides which you can use to compare school districts in the Washington area.

A useful tool at the budget webpage allows you to access budget questions raised by the School Board, the County Board, the APS's Budget Advisory Council budget questions, and the school union's budget questions.

The Arlington School Board currently has four budget work sessions scheduled: February 23, February 28, March 14, and March 21.

Growls readers with questions or comments about the Superintendent's proposed FY 2018 budget can direct them to the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 26, 2017

The Results are in, and the 2016 Porker of the Year is . . . .

In a press release earlier this month, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) "announced the results of its online poll for the 2016 Porker of the Year.  There were six worthy candidates who were guilty of bureaucratic mismanagement, financing wasteful boondoggles, and promoting patently flawed policies, but in the end, the “winner” was never in doubt.  By a landslide margin, the dishonor went to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), with 58 percent of the vote."

CAGW explained the vote this way:

"Sen. Schumer was named August Porker of the Month for his leading role in the effort to create supposedly “debt free” college for all students, which would exacerbate rather than resolve the student loan crisis.  According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loan debt hit an all-time high of $1.27 trillion in Q3 2016.  The cause of this dramatic increase in student loan debt is increased federal government subsidies.  Over the past decade, there has been a 69 percent increase in students borrowing from federal loan programs.  The federal government now provides 71 percent of all student aid.  The consequential increase in student access to credit enables colleges and universities to continue to hike prices, which necessitates more loan borrowing.  Tuition costs have increased by 153 percent over the last three decades for private colleges and 231 percent for public universities, faster than prices for both food and healthcare.

"Sen. Schumer offered a bewildering assessment of the student loan crisis on February 12, 2016:  “A Ford and a college education used to be the same price, but these days an education at NYU costs $60,000 a year, compared to $20,000 for a Ford today.”  His silly comparison between the open and highly competitive auto market and the closed and heavily subsidized higher education sector lays bare his flawed knowledge of how government intervention hurts students.  His bill, S. 2677, the In the Red Act, follows this flawed reasoning and would continue the vicious cycle of increased subsidies and higher loans that have already saddled America’s next generation with mountainous debt.

"The silver medal winners, with 23 percent of the vote, were Reps. John Culberson (R-Texas), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), for their reckless and secretive push to bring back wasteful and corruptive earmarks to Congress.

"But, the top spot goes to Sen. Chuck Schumer, for his complete lack of understanding of the student loan bubble and promoting policies that would worsen the current crisis.  That is why taxpayers named him the 2016 Porker of the Year."

If you prefer the video version, click-on the press release here. The press release also has the embedded links that will take you to the supporting documents.

Learn more about Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW). and kudos for their continuing work on behalf of America's taxpayers.

February 25, 2017

County Board Votes to Advertise 2-cent RE Tax Increase

Here's the bad news, according to today's county press release: "The Arlington County Board today voted 3 to 2 to advertise a property tax rate for Calendar Year (CY) 2017 of $0.998 per $100 assessed value, not including the $0.013 stormwater tax rate. The advertised rate is two cents higher than the current property tax rate."

The press release also said:

"The County Manager had recommended a two-cent increase in the property tax rate specifically to address the “extraordinary” funding needs of Metro and enrollment growth in the Arlington Public Schools. The County Board accepted that recommendation in choosing a maximum tax rate to advertise. In addition, the Board directed the County Manager to prepare and distribute a package of potential budget reductions prior to the public budget hearing.

“Today we received the Manager’s proposed budget, and we set the maximum tax rates and fees that we can consider. Now the responsibility shifts to us. This is the start of the Board’s conversation with the public about priorities for FY 2018,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “For the next nearly two months, we will be scrubbing the Manager’s proposed budget and listening to the community.”

As a result of the Board's action today, the Board cannot adopt an FY 2018 budget requiring a larger real estate tax increase. As noted in the press release, "Rate adopted in April will be at or below advertised rate."

Arlington County taxpayers can review the Manager's proposed FY 2018 budget on the FY 2018 Budget Information Page. The page includes links to the following information:

  • FY 2018 Proposed Budget
  • FY 2018 Budget Planning
  • County Board Budget Work Sessions
  • Non-Profit Summary
  • Helpful Resources (especially helpful is the spreadsheet of revenue sources)
  • Related Documents
  • Budget Feedback Form

For other news reporting on the Manager's FY 2018 proposed budget, see our updated February 23, 2017 Growls.

UPDATE (3/1/17): Additional details of the County Board's FY 2018 budget actions on Saturday, including advertising a real estate tax rate, are in this Monday ARLnow.com story.

February 24, 2017

300+ Scientists Urge Exit from U.N. Climate Agreement

In today's Washington Times, Valerie Richardson writes, "More than 300 scientists have urged President Trump to withdraw from the U.N.’s climate change agency, warning that its push to curtail carbon dioxide threatens to exacerbate poverty without improving the environment."

She continues by explaining:

"In a Thursday letter to the president, MIT professor emeritus Richard Lindzen called on the United States and other nations to “change course on an outdated international agreement that targets minor greenhouse gases,” starting with carbon dioxide.

“Since 2009, the US and other governments have undertaken actions with respect to global climate that are not scientifically justified and that already have, and will continue to cause serious social and economic harm — with no environmental benefits,” said Mr. Lindzen, a prominent atmospheric physicist.

"Signers of the attached petition include the U.S. and international atmospheric scientists, meteorologists, physicists, professors and others taking issue with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC], which was formed in 1992 to combat “dangerous” climate change.

"The 2016 Paris climate accord, which sets nonbinding emissions goals for nations, was drawn up under the auspices of the UNFCCC.

“Observations since the UNFCCC was written 25 years ago show that warming from increased atmospheric CO2 will be benign — much less than initial model predictions,” says the petition."

She concludes, writing:

"Challenging the catastrophic climate change narrative, Mr. Lindzen describes carbon dioxide as “plant food, not poison.”

“Restricting access to fossil fuels has very negative effects upon the wellbeing of people around the world,” he says in his letter.

“It condemns over 4 billion people in still underdeveloped countries to continued poverty.”

The Washington Examiner's John Siciliano also reported on the 300 scientists' letter, noting:

"The scientists offered their expertise to the administration on evaluating climate change facts. "It is especially important for members of your administrative team to hear from people like the signers of this letter, with the training needed to evaluate climate facts, and to offer sound advice," the letter read. "Climate discussions have long been political debates — not scientific discussions — over whether citizens or bureaucrats should control energy, natural resources and other assets."

"The letter and petition were also distributed to offices on Capitol Hill."

Finally, at Climate Depot, Marc Morano links to a story in The Hill that reports on the scientists' letter.

Growls readers are urged to provide your views on global warming to your member of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 23, 2017

Arlington County Manager Proposes 2 Cents Tax Increase

ARLnow.com has an updated version of their report of the Arlington County Manager's presentation today of his proposed FY 2018 budget to the Arlington County Board. Their lede said, "A new $1.2 billion budget proposed by Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz would boost core services — road paving, streetlight maintenance, public safety, schools and Metro — while raising property taxes to the highest rate since 2001."

Here's the essence of ARLnow.com's report:

"Spending under Schwartz’s proposal — drafted with guidance from the County Board — would increase 4.3 percent, while the tax rate would increase by two cents, from $0.991 to $1.011 for every $100 in assessed. That would be Arlington’s highest property tax rate since 2001, when it was $1.023.

"The rate increase would come on top of rising property assessments — up 2.9 percent this year. The total tax and fee burden on the average Arlington homeowner would rise by $308 to $8,613 under Schwartz’s proposal, which will now be considered by the County Board after a series of work sessions and public hearings. That’s up from $7,745 three years ago, in 2014.

"Final adoption of the new budget is scheduled for April 22, while the Arlington Public Schools budget — Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is presenting his proposed budget tonight — is scheduled to be adopted on May 4."

The local news portal added:

"The two-cent rate increase itself is expected to bring in an additional $14.8 million in on-going revenue. Much of that is earmarked by Schwartz for an overall $21.2 million increase in funding for Arlington Public Schools, which is experiencing a prolonged period of enrollment growth, and additional funding for Metro, which is also set to receive $22 million in bond funds from Arlington for capital projects.

“It is never easy to recommend an increase in property tax rates, but Metro and our public schools are both vitally important to our County’s continued prosperity, and both are in urgent need of additional funding,” Schwartz said in a press release.

"Other areas of spending increases, as outlined in the press release and in a press briefing Thursday morning, include streetlight maintenance, road paving, facilities maintenance, land acquisition, public safety and economic development.

"Schwartz said streetlight maintenance and road maintenance, in particular, were identified as top priorities in resident satisfaction surveys."

The county's press release about the Manager's proposed FY 2018 budget included five bullet points:

  • Two-cent property tax rate increase recommended to fund Metro, APS “extraordinary needs”
  • Up to $22 million increase in proposed Schools funding
  • $7.4 million increase in Metro funding
  • County operations kept at current level of services
  • More funding for streetlight maintenance, street paving, public safety

The press release points to the FY 2018 budget information page for much, much more information. At the moment, the two most important links are:

There are 58 reader comments at the moment, but collette's comment seems the  most appropriate, i.e., "County Residents Propose Firing County Manager." Also, tburger asks, "Why are county employees getting a 3.25% increase in salary...that easily doubles the current inflation rate?" In addition, ARLnow.com reader JK points us to an April 9, 2015 Washington Business Journal story that highlights the fact that "Arlington households have the second-highest tax burden in the nation, according to NerdWallet."

Finally, mark your calendars for some important dates, as noted in the county press release, "The budget and tax/ fee hearings will be held on March 28 and March 30 and the Board will adopt the FY 2018 Budget on April 22."

Growls readers who are Arlington County taxpayers are encouraged to follow the Manager's proposed FY 2018 budget as it wends its way to becoming the Arlington County Board's adopted FY 2018 budget on April 22. If you wish further information about the Manager's proposed FY 2018 budget, or wish to comment on the budget, just click-on the following link to send the Board a message:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (2/25/17) The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan reported on the County Manager's proposed FY 2018, which included a proposal to increase the real estate tax rate by up to two cents, writing in part:

"County Manager Mark Schwartz said the 3 percent rise in property assessments this year will generate enough tax revenue to cover the county’s existing obligations and allow officials to shift money to pay for smaller initiatives without a tax hike.

"But paying for the “clearly extraordinary needs” of Metro and the Arlington public school system will require more money. “I never like advocating for tax increases or tax-rate increases, but both of these are critical priorities,” Schwartz said in a briefing before meeting with the county board."

UPDATE (2/25/17) The Arlington Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey also reports on the County Manager's proposed "2-cent increase in the tax rate."

February 22, 2017

A Thought about Tax Complexity

"(T)axpayers appear to tolerate significant complexity in order to eliminate marginal horizontal inequity. More importantly, taxpayers generally are unwilling to sacrifice tax benefits to achieve simplicity."

~ Deborah H. Schenk

Source: page 123, "As Certain as Death: Quotations about Taxes," 2010 Edition, compiled by Jeffrey Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.


February 21, 2017

Household Debt at $12.58 Trillion, Near 2008 Peak

At the Washington Free Beacon on Sunday, Ali Meyer writes that "largely due to credit card and student loan debt," household debt now stands at $12.58 trillion, which is "just shy of its 2008 peak." She links to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Here's how she begins her reporting:

"Total household debt climbed by $226 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016, rising to $12.58 trillion, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

"The $12.58 trillion in household debt today is only 0.8 percent shy of its 2008 peak at $12.68 trillion, when the United States was in a recession. The increase in debt in the fourth quarter of 2016 is the largest quarterly increase since the last quarter of 2013.

"Most of the increase was due to credit card debt, followed by student loans. According to the report, credit card balances increased by 4.3 percent since the previous quarter, and student loan balances increased by 2.4 percent.

"In the last quarter, credit card balances increased to $779 billion overall, while student loan debt balances rose to $1.31 trillion. The report also finds that 11.2 percent of student loan debt was 90 or more days delinquent or in default.

"The other contributors to household debt were auto loan balances and mortgage debt. While auto loan balances increased by 1.9 percent to $1.16 billion, mortgage debt increased by 1.6 percent to $8.48 trillion."

On January 13, 2017, we growled that the federal deficit  for the 4th calendar quarter of 2016 was $208 billion, leaving the national debt at just under $20 trillion on December 30, 2016.

As we growled on September 27, 2016, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget believes "the United States is more poorly equipped to handle the next recession than it was to handle the most recent one."

February 20, 2017

A Thought about George Washington

"[H]is was the singular destiny and merit, of leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war, for the establishment of its independence; of conducting its councils through the birth of a government, new in its forms and principles, until it had settled down into a quiet and orderly train; and of scrupulously obeying the laws through the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example."

~ Thomas Jefferson on George Washington (1814)

Source: Founders' Quote Database, The Patriot Post.

                                             - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The editors of The Patriot Post write today:

"In some circles, today is observed as “Presidents' Day,” jointly honoring Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln (some even extend the commemoration to all presidents), but it is still officially recognized as the anniversary of Washington’s birth. That is how we mark the date in our humble shop. (Washington’s actual birthday is Feb. 22.)"

February 19, 2017

How Big is America's "Big Government?"

Brookings Institution senior fellow John Dilullio introduced a paper last week that provides "10 questions and answers about America's Big Government" writing:

"The ongoing debate over the Trump administration’s plan to freeze federal hiring has thus far involved arguments and “alternative facts” from those on both sides of the question. This obscures certain hard truths about America’s “Big Government” and its real federal bureaucracy.  What follows is an (I hope brief and user-friendly but duly detailed) attempt to mediate that debate and spotlight certain deeply inconvenient truths about the character and quality of present-day American government and “we the people” to whom it is accountable."

To the first question, "What is "Big Government?", he says it "refers to three features of the national or federal government headquartered in Washington, D.C.," specifically:

  • How much it spends
  • How much it does, and
  • How many people it employs

He then proceeds by asking such questions as how much has federal government spending grown; has Washington been doing more or just spending more; what about growth in the federal government workforce and in the ranks of federal bureaucrats; and, how did post-1960 United States have a five-fold increase in national government spending, establish seven new cabinet agencies, effect a steady expansion in programs and regulations, and yet experience zero growth in the workforce responsible for stewarding trillions of tax dollars and translating 80,000-plus pages of words into action?

That's where things get interesting since the federal government has "had roughly the same number of federal workers, not counting uniformed military personnel and postal workers, for the past 57 years." The growth in government since 1960 has come about by using "three species of administrative proxies," specifically:

  • state and local governments
  • for-profit businesses
  • nonprofit organizations

While the federal workforce "hovered around two million full-time bureaucrats" since 1960, "the total number of state and local government employees tripled to more than 18 million workers." Adjusting for inflation, Dilullio points out that "federal grants-in-aid for the states increased more than 10-fold. "For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has its approximately 20,000 employees spread across its Washington, D.C. headquarters and 10 regions. However, he says "90 percent of EPA programs are administered A-to-Z by state government agencies that employ thousands of environmental protection workers."

He also says there are "thorny data issues" involved in obtaining exact numbers of contractor employees, but says, "the best available estimates indicate that the total number of federal contract employees increased from about five million in 1990 to about 7.5 million in 2013." The bottom line? Dilulio says, "let’s call it 14 million in all today versus four million back when Ike was saying farewell (in 1960)."

For the seventh Q&A, he discusses the "one must-know fact" about Big Government. The answer:

"It is that “Big Government” in America today is both debt-financed and proxy-administered.

"The first half of that essential fact is well known, much discussed, and much debated.  For all but five post-1960 years, the federal government has run deficits, and the national debt is now bordering on $20 trillion.  But the latter half of that essential fact—rampant proxy administration—is little known, poorly understood, and, except in certain moments of crisis, ignored."

Questions 8 (why both deft-financed and proxy-administered), 9 (how does the real federal bureaucracy and bureaucracy-by-proxy perform), and 10 (spending on defense contractors vs. spending on entire federal civilian workforce) are worth reading in the original with one exception. He notes that according to a study by Professor Donald Kettl, "28 of the 32 programs on that GAO high-risk list were among the very federal programs with the highest proxy-administration quotients."

In conclusion, Dilulio writes:

"But “we the people” are a half-century into the errors and delusions behind our debt-financed, proxy-administered “Big Government” and the real federal bureaucracy.

"In Federalist Paper No. 68, Alexander Hamilton, who remains the most finance savvy leader in American history, and who was by no means allergic to stronger national government, lectured that “the true test of good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.”

"For all the partisan and ideological fights, and across all the usual demographic and regional lines, Americans and their leaders are today ever more strongly united, not badly divided—united, that is, in failing Hamilton’s good government test."

John Dilulio's paper is a fairly fast read -- here's the link again, and be sure to bookmark it so you can send it to your friends. He uses a lot of charts and tables to drive home his short answers. After reading questions 8, 9, and 10, you will be ready to write your member of Congress about America's "Big Government" problem. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 17, 2017

A Thought about Work and Taxes

"Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity."

~ Ronald Reagan

Source: page 119, "As Certain as Death: Quotations about Taxes," 2010 Edition, compiled by Jeffrey Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

February 16, 2017

Civic Federation May Aim at County Board's 'Comment' Rule

In his County Notes column in this week's Arlington Sun Gazette (page 4), Scott McCaffrey writes, "The Arlington County Civic Federation next month will take up a resolution expressing concern about recent changes to the County Board’s public-comment period."

According to McCaffrey:

"Introduced at the federation’s Feb. 7 meeting by delegate Suzanne Sundburg, the resolution says too many items on the County Board’s monthly “consent agenda” feature “errors of fact, items lacking staff reports and other essential supporting documents and information, and items that have not properly followed the [County] Board’s guidelines for a full public process” to justifying reducing the amount of public scrutiny.

"The resolution will be discussed, and possibly voted on, at the Civic Federation’s March 7 meeting.

"In January, County Board members instituted new rules for public comment on the consent agenda, a part of the meeting that is supposed to include non-controversial items not requiring a great deal of discussion at board meetings.

"The 5-0 vote to change the rules reduces the ability of some citizen-activists to “pull” items off the consent agenda for a full hearing. Members of the public now must ask individual County Board members to pull specific items off for discussion."

He quotes Sundburg, again, when he writes:

"Sundburg, however, notes that the decision was made without input from the public or the Civic Federation, and runs afoul of “the board’s stated goals of improving government transparency and encouraging greater public participation."

A draft of the resolution is not yet available at the Arlington County Civic Federation's website, but a draft should be available near the end of February.

We growled on January 29, 2017 about the Arlington County Board's new public comment guidelines.

Growls readers who are Arlington County taxpayers are encouraged to comment on the Arlington County Board's revised public comment policy. Just click-on the following link to send the Board a message:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 15, 2017

A Thought about Journalism and the Truth

"You want statistics to tell you the truth. You can find truth there if you know how to get at it, and romance, human interest, humor and fascinating revelations as well. The journalist must know how to find all of these things—truth, of course, first”

~ Joseph Pulitzer

Source: Stats.org, a collaboration between Sense About Science USA and the American Statistical Association. Quotation also available at StatsChat.

                                         - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Joseph Pullitzer, 1847-1911, "created a journalistic style that is still in use today. Mixing thought-provoking editorials and news with crime and public interest stories, Pulitzer made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York World profitable papers. He is well known for creating the Pulitzer Prize," according to Historic Missourians, the State Historical Society of Missouri.

February 14, 2017

Virginia Drops Two Places to No. 17 in Small Business Index

In the Commentary section of today's Washington Times, Richard Rahn asks, "If you were going to start a new business in the United States that was not location dependent, what state would choose? Countries, states and cities all compete to attract businesses — both large and small. More businesses mean more jobs and usually greater prosperity."

Rahn introduces readers to the Small Business Policy Index (SBPI) 2017, the SBE Council's 21st annual edition, which ranks states on policy measures and costs that impact small businesses and entrepreneurship, writing:

"On Feb. 8, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council (SBE) released its annual ranking of the 50 states “according to 55 policy measures, including a wide array of tax, regulatory, and government spending measures.” The findings were not surprising — Nevada, Texas, South Dakota, Wyoming and Florida were at the top, while Vermont, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey and California were at the bottom. What is troublesome is that year after year the business-unfriendly states do so little to improve their rankings. As the author of the study, Raymond J. Keating, chief economist of the SBE Council, noted: “Too many elected officials choose to ignore the basic economic realities of how government affects entrepreneurship, business, and investment.”

"Taxes, regulations and excessive red tape and fees are all business and job killers — and often have a disproportionate effect on small and new businesses. Governments that engage in wasteful and inefficient spending and poor delivery of services, such as crime prevention, drive business away. Politicians endlessly cry about the “need” for more taxes and regulations in order to “protect the people.” But in most places, government is already far larger than optimum, and so more taxes and regulations only make things worse. Again, it is no surprise that the most business-friendly states all get by perfectly well without a state income tax, while the least friendly states have many of the highest taxes."

Why are these policy measures important to small businesses and entrepreneurship? He explains, writing, "Real annual growth among the top 25 states (from 2010 to 2015) averaged 37 percent faster than the bottom 25 states. Population growth is an indicator of prosperity. People move to where good jobs are. The 25 most business-friendly states had a population growth of more than double the 25 least friendly states."

The five best and worst states, according to the chart of 2017 state rankings included with Rahn's article:"

On SBPI 2017, Virginia ranks #17 with a score of 76.550. On the 2013, 2014, and 2016 indexes, it ranked #15. In 2012, however, it ranked #12, or a total of five places in five years. Here are 2017's 'key positives' and 'key negatives' for Virginia:

"Key Positives:

"Virginia ranks #17 on the SBE Council “Small Business Policy Index 2017.”

"Virginia has no death tax, a low level of consumption-based taxes, low unemployment taxes, low wireless taxes, low workers’ compensation costs, a low crime rate, is a right-to-work, and has no added minimum wage mandate.

"Key Negative:

"Virginia has ranked poorly in terms of the recent government spending trend."

The SBE Council's press release for the 2017 SBPI is here. A .pdf version of the Index is here.

Growls readers who are not satisfied because Virginia has been moving in the wrong direction on the SBE Council's Small Business Policy Index are urged to write to Governor Terry McAuliffe. Tell him that Virginia is moving in the wrong direction in regards to small businesses and entrepreneurship. Just click-on the following link:

Growls readers who are concerned that Virginia is moving in the wrong direction in its small business and entrepreneurship policies are also urged to write to their state legislators. The following legislators represent Arlington County in the Virginia General Assembly: Senators (Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, or Janet Howell) and Delegates (Rip Sullivan, Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, or Mark Levine). Contact information for members of the General Assembly can be found here  -- use one of the "quick links" to locate the senator and delegate who represent you.

While the index evaluates state policies, local governments are not innocent in creating policies that are unfriendly to small businesses and entrepreneurship. For example, almost two years ago, the Arlington County Board approved a new retail plan that attempted to be more flexible and competitive. Arlington County has a 15-step "small buisiness checklist and legal requirements." Can it be streamlined? And each year, the County Board generates a legislative package. Does it seek streamlined state policy towards small businesses and entrepreneurship? (see Item #42 on the Board's November 2016 agenda). Click-on the following link to send the Board a message:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 13, 2017

Optics Over Substance Wins Out in Arlington County

The Arlington Sun Gazette reported last week that "Arlington, state find themselves near top of rankings in LEED buildings."

According to the Sun Gazette:

"Virginia now ranks eighth nationally in the square footage of environmentally friendly LEED-certified buildings on a per-capita basis, and Arlington is responsible for more than one in six of those square feet.

"Arlington had a cumulative total of 3.15 million square feet of space certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council through 2016, according to officials of the county’s Department of Environmental Services.

"That’s 17 percent of Virginia’s tally of 18.4 million square feet, reported in a ranking by the Green Building Council on Jan. 25.

“Virginia has been a phenomenal trailblazer in green building and LEED certifications, and is leading the way toward a more sustainable future for generations to come,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO of the Green Building Council."

Unfortunately, taxpayers may not benefit much from all of those LEED certifications. In a May 8, 2014 op-ed in US News & World Report, Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union, urged policymakers "to take a hard look at LEED certification standards." He asked:

" . . . is LEED truly delivering the ecological benefits and cost-saving energy efficiencies that it promised? Are the assumptions behind LEED, the particular choices that supposedly should be made on behalf of a greener footprint, supported by the best available facts? These questions are being asked with increasing legitimacy, not to mention urgency.

"One recent example is an investigation of the District of Columbia government’s mandate that all new public buildings meet LEED’s “silver” standard or better (and that public as well as privately-owned facilities disclose energy usage). A sampling of buildings in the District conducted by the Washington Examiner turned up some results that offer pause to economy-minded citizens. Using the Energy Star efficiency system, the median score for LEED-certified structures (28.5 out of 100) was “insignificantly higher” than that of conventional ones (26.5).

"Interestingly, the District’s own Department of Environment expressed reservations in a separate assessment of the mandated program, noting that it reflects “dependence on a third-party organization [USGBC], over which the government has no oversight, to set … green building standards.”

"Ultimately, D.C. taxpayers may not be realizing the energy savings touted by their leaders when they imposed LEED on government construction, but there’s little incentive to reconsider the scheme, because the District has reaped about $5.2 million in permit fees since the initiative began about four years ago."

"Besides the District of Columbia, several hundred municipalities have written LEED into their codes for regulatory or tax-credit purposes, and the outcome for taxpayers has been far from uniformly promising. As far back as 2009, The New York Times was reporting on structures with LEED status that were “not living up to” the coveted label. A study of New York properties conducted last year by Oberlin College Professor John Scofield suggested that “LEED building certification is not moving NYC toward its goal of climate neutrality.”

"Fortunately, the federal government has not issued its own edict that LEED be implemented among private-sector builders nationwide, but America’s taxpayers are not necessarily off the hook. The U.S. General Services Administration has required that all of its new federal buildings and renovations meet the LEED criteria, potentially piling millions in upfront expenses onto many projects. In fact, it estimates that the certification process alone for LEED (exclusive of actual construction) can tack on tens of thousands in additional taxpayer costs to every project.

"Would taxpayers eventually recover the higher investment from LEED over time, due to reduced energy consumption? The experience so far suggests mixed outcomes at best. One study of 11 Navy facilities, for example, determined that four LEED buildings performed more poorly on energy savings tests than non-certified structures; four others had only slightly better performance."

Even property owners of these so-called "green" buildings may not benefit from their LEED certifications. In the July 28, 2013 issue of New Republic, Sam Roudman wrote:

"When the Bank of America Tower opened in 2010, the press praised it as one of the world’s “most environmentally responsible high-rise office building[s].” It wasn’t just the waterless urinals, daylight dimming controls, and rainwater harvesting. And it wasn’t only the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification—the first ever for a skyscraper—and the $947,583 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It also had as a tenant the environmental movement’s biggest celebrity. The Bank of America Tower had Al Gore."

Finally, the Washington Examiner's Luke Rosiak reported on October 28, 2013 that an analysis showed "LEED certification doesn't guarantee energy efficiency." and wrote about the analysis of New York buildings showed:

"Half of all New York office buildings used 74.2 kBtus per gross square foot or more, New York's data showed. Of buildings that were LEED-certified, half used 82.4 or more — meaning LEED-certified buildings actually performed worse than buildings in general, according to the Examiner analysis.

"The MetLife building, for example, received LEED gold certification less than a year ago. But data released this month reveal that its greenhouse gas emissions in tons of carbon dioxide per square foot rank the facility among the worst in all of New York, making it the 113th most-polluting office building out of 1,170."

We growled on March 14, 2009 that the Arlington County Board "kowtows to the enviro-statists." Earlier that day, "the Arlington County Board approved greater incentives (see the "Board Report for item #24 on the agenda) for “building green,” meaning the the county will offer “greater bonus density for higher levels of environmental sustainability." It's amazing that while the Left despises corporations and the wealthy, they are only to ready to enrich their real estate developers.

More critically, what is the cost to taxpayers of such "smart growth" or "green building" development? In a working paper published October 21, 2014 by George Mason University's Mercatus Center, Michael Lewyn and Kristoffer Jackson point out:

"However, green certification may impose short-run costs on developers and taxpayers. One law review article estimates that LEED certification, the most widely used form of green certification, adds between four and eleven percent to total construction costs. Therefore, if a city requires such certification and its suburbs do not, development in the city could become more expensive, thus increasing the incentives for developers and their customers to do business in suburbia."

Sure makes you wonder just how much of Arlington County's nearly 20% commercial property vacancy rate is the result of the Arlington County Board's enviro-statist or so-called smart growth policies. Or whether all that bonus density the County Board dishes out does nothing but make the county a less desirable, and more costly, place to live. If you have a comment or question about Arlington County's LEED's or smart growth policies, take a few minutes to ask your question(s) or make your opinion known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 12, 2017

Gondola Loses Out to Higher Priority Projects

The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan on Saturday reported that "Arlington says 'no thanks' to Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola."

Here are the opening paragraphs in her report:

"A proposed gondola connecting Georgetown and Rosslyn across the Potomac River won’t be funded with money from Arlington because other transportation projects, such as Metro and Columbia Pike transit, take priority, the Arlington County Board said Friday.

"'Given our identified and pressing transportation needs, along with some ongoing concerns about the long-term value of the gondola, the Board is not in favor of any further funding of the gondola project,' the board’s chairman, Jay Fisette (D), said in a letter to the gondola study committee.

"But the project — which has been touted by the Georgetown Business Improvement District, among others, as a cheaper way to get mass transit access between the two booming neighborhoods — is far from dead, Joe Sternlieb, president of the Georgetown BID, said."

Sullivan links to the following letter that was posted on the Arlington County Board's webpage:

"Dear Members of the Executive Committee,

"On behalf of the Arlington County Board, I am writing to you regarding the Rosslyn-Georgetown Gondola study and to share our collective position on the project.

"First, I want to thank you for giving Arlington County the opportunity to join you and other partners in exploring the potential opportunities for constructing and operating a gondola service in our region.

"Board members, along with our staff, have reviewed the conclusions of the feasibility study for the proposed aerial gondola between Rosslyn and Georgetown. The study addressed many of the important components, including ridership demand, cost of installation, cost of operations, engineering, technical issues, and permitting requirements. An estimate of $80-$90 million was included in the study as the order of magnitude construction cost of the project.

"Arlington already has a large number of transportation projects in the County’s Master Transportation Plan, including several in Rosslyn that will require substantial resources and attention over the next several years. The Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola is not a project included in our recently approved Capital Improvement Plan.  Given our identified and pressing transportation needs, along with some ongoing concerns about the long-term value of the gondola, the Board is not in favor of any further funding of the gondola project.

Thank you again for your joint efforts in exploring this particular alternative transportation option.  We look forward to our continued partnership on other regional transportation initiatives.


"Jay Fisette, Chair"

Both Sullivan's report and the County Board's letter contain additional embedded links.

The Post article also points out:

"In truth, the participation of the Arlington County Board was extremely unlikely. Even when the board agreed a year ago to kick in $35,000 for a feasibility study, several board members expressed deep skepticism.

"The study, which came out in November, estimated an $80 million to $90 million construction cost for the system over the Potomac at the Key Bridge, as well as $2 million to $3 million in annual operating costs. That weighed heavily on the board, said Vice Chair Katie Cristol (D). But she said it couldn’t compete with more-pressing priorities."

WTOP radio's Dennis Foley also reports on Arlington County's decision to say "'no' to Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola."

Unfortunately, it cost Arlington County taxpayers $35,000 to learn the pros- and cons- about the gondola. But at least the Arlington County Board now seems to know the meaning of prioritizing the spending of taxpayers money. An expensive lesson, but at least the Board seems to have learned an important lesson of governing.

If you have a question or comment about the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, take a few minutes to ask your question(s) or make your opinion known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 11, 2017

A Thought about Taxes

"It would be a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their income."

~ Benjamin Franklin

Source: page 52, "As Certain as Death: Quotations about Taxes," 2010 Edition, compiled by Jeffrey Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

February 10, 2017

A Thought on Tax Complexity

"In 2015, candidate Trump said that he wanted to “put H&R Block right out of business” by simplifying our taxes. In an interesting short video, Block’s CEO responded to Trump’s threat, and to charges that the company benefits from the tax code’s complexity, reminding us that “there are five different definitions of a child in the tax code.” A columnist at Block’s hometown newspaper wrote that putting Block out of business “would wipe out 80,000 jobs.” Right, and the only reason those people have their jobs is because Congress has made our income taxes too damn complicated. If Congress really wants to give Americans another tax cut, then they should simplify income taxes so we don’t need to pay someone to prepare our tax returns.

"We know that Democrats have no compunction about making our lives more complicated in order to affect their social agenda, but what about the GOP? ObamaCare complicated our taxes with its tax credit subsidies, and now we learn that the replacement for ObamaCare might just have that same feature.

"What sheep we Americans have become if we think that our personal income tax system is necessary, natural, and normal. It’s disturbing that a supposedly free people would meekly accept such a tax system. It needs to be radically simplified, which would serve as a “tax cut” for the middle class and all Americans."

~ Jon N. Hall

Source: his 2/10/17 article, "The Real Tax Unfairness," at American Thinker. See original for embedded links, especially the first paragraph above.

                                            - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Hall is a programmer/analyst and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.

UPDATE (2/11/17): We've growled frequently about tax complexity and the need for tax reform, or better yet, a flat tax. For example:

  • U.S. Tax Complexity Costing Americans Billions, May 3, 2012; and,
  • Explaining "Gross Tax Mismanagement: 'Complexity," June 3, 2013.

For more Growls on tax complexity, use the search feature in the right-hand column.

February 09, 2017

Minimum Wages and Job Losses

The Washington Free Beacon's Ali Meyer reported this week on a study that shows "minimum wage hikes will lead to 1.8 million job losses."

According to Meyer:

"Minimum wage increases over the next several years will result in 1.8 million job losses, according to a report from the American Action Forum.

"By July of this year, 22 states and the District of Columbia will have implemented minimum wage increases. In just 2017 alone, wage increases will lead to 383,000 job losses.

"While the goal of increasing the minimum wage is to increase earnings for low-income individuals, the report finds that the additional earnings transferred from the job losers to the job keepers is minimal. For example, minimum wage hikes are projected to increase earnings by only $6,900, which would be split among all employees affected by the increase.

"While proposals to raise the minimum wage are well intended, it is important to consider the negative labor market consequences," the report states. "A 10 percent increase in the real minimum wage is associated with a 0.3 to 0.5 percentage-point decline in the net job growth rate."

"As a result, three years later employment becomes 0.7 percent lower than it would have been absent the minimum wage increase," the report states.

"In just 2017, minimum wage increases will lead to 1,000 eliminated jobs in Vermont to 109,000 job losses in New York. If all future minimum wage increases are taken into account, those job losses increase to 3,000 in Vermont and 433,000 in New York.

"The report notes that employers usually pay for wage increases by cutting their workforce, raising the price on products, slowing down their hiring, or replacing more productive workers with low-skilled workers.

"Unfortunately, it is the lowest-wage, least-skilled workers who pay the largest prices for these consequences," the report states. "While they need those experiences most to develop skills and find better paying jobs, they are the least likely to be able to keep their jobs or find a new one when the minimum wage rises."

"In Arizona, the minimum wage is expected to rise from $8.05 in 2016 to $10.00 in 2017. Critics of the hike there, known as Proposition 206, say it will hurt young people and small businesses."

Meyer concludes, writing:

"By making hiring more expensive, Proposition 206 harms young people, small businesses, and folks on the outside of the labor market trying to break in," said Lea Marquez Peterson, who is CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Tucson. "As a longtime advocate for southern Arizona's small businesses, I've seen firsthand the destructive effects of job-killing mandates on job creators."

She links to this American Action Forum study, by Ben Gitis and Curtis Arndt. Here is the report's executive summary, including the three bullet points:

"We examine the job and wage effects of the state minimum wage increases that are currently phasing-in. Focusing on the tradeoff between reduced job creation and increased wage earnings, we estimate how much total wage earnings rise with each job loss caused by the current minimum wage increases. Overall, we find that the minimum wages scheduled to rise over the next several years in 14 states and the District of Columbia will cost millions of jobs across the country and each lost job only leads to total wage earnings rising by a few thousand dollars. In particular, we find that:

  • In isolation, the minimum wage increases in 2017 will cost 383,000 jobs;
  • The entire minimum wage increases currently phasing-in will cost over 2.6 million jobs; and
  • Each job lost only leads to an extra $6,900 in total wage earnings across all workers."

We've growled frequently on the minimum wage, including quoting from a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial almost exactly one-year ago.

For additional background information about the minimum wage, see this entry by Linda Gorman in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Also see this entry for books, articles and related sources in the Library of Economics and Liberty.

Take a few minutes to write your member of Congress. Ask your members of Congress to oppose increases to the minimum wage, but rather support workforce training designed to increase productivity and increased wages. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 08, 2017

Arlington School Board Taps Abingdon's Contingency Funds

The Arlington Sun Gazette reported yesterday that at its February 2 meeting, the Arlington School Board "chipped away slightly at the contingency funds for rebuilding Abingdon Elementary School." However, they added that staff thinks, "there will be enough remaining to finish the project on budget."

The Sun Gazette went on to explain:

"School Board members agreed to fund nearly $131,000 for a switchgear replacement for electrical systems. Previous change orders to the original contract used about $26,600 in contingency funds.

"But there remains $2.63 million in contingency cash in the nearly $32 million school project, and school officials expressed optimism that the funding would be enough to get the project done."

The Superintendent's report to the School Board is Item G.3. on the School Board's February 2, 2017 agenda. The item involves a construction contract change order. Staff's 5-page PowerPoint presentation is also available.

One item in the staff report is especially disconcerting, however. Specifically, Note 1, which reads:

"Note 1: Due to favorable bids the School Board approved adding some project scope items that had been previously removed during the design phase for cost control purposes back into the project."

If your humble scribe reads that correctly, staff is telling taxpayers they are going to spend tax dollars no mater what. If the bids come in high, your tax dollars will pay for it. And, if the bids come in low, staff will find enough bells and whistles to spend your taxes anyway. Whatever happened to the idea that only those taxpayers dollars are  to be spent that are absolutely necessary?

Growls readers with questions or comments about construction or contingencies should direct them to the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 07, 2017

A Thought about Large Organizations

"Organizations, particularly large ones, have a tendency to engage in group think. They need to make an extra effort to listen to dissenting views to ensure that the organization is pursuing the right goals."

~ Paul Wolfowitz

Source: his January 31, 2017 op-ed, posted in the New York Times.

                                          - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

According to the New York Times, he is "a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was a senior official at the State and Defense Departments in the Reagan and both Bush administrations."

February 06, 2017

Arlington County Lands Nestle Hdqtrs. Cost to Taxpayers?

An online story in today's Arlington Sun Gazette reports that local and state officials are "upbeat" because of Nestle's decision to move to Rosslyn.

The Arlington County weekly writes:

"It came with a cost to taxpayers, but county, state and business officials reacted favorably to the news that Nestlé USA would be moving its headquarters from the West Coast to Rosslyn, bringing 750 jobs and filling up about one-third of a largely vacant 30-story building at 1812 North Moore St.

"After considering a wide variety of options, the food giant concluded that “Arlington hits all the marks,” said Paul Grimwood, Nestlé USA’s chairman and CEO.

"The firm’s U.S. operations employ more than 50,000, with domestic sales of $26 billion in 2015.

"To make the move happen, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant program and Arlington County government agreed to a package of incentives worth $10 million, which drew the ire of some but which others said will prove their worth in the long run."

Last Wednesday, the Washington Post's Abha Bhattarai posted a story, which included:

"The world’s largest packaged-food company — which bills itself as a nutrition, health and wellness company — will move in at 1812 N. Moore St., the region’s tallest building, which has remained vacant since it was completed in late 2013. Nestlé was lured to the area, executives say, by its proximity to lawmakers, regulators and lobbyists — and more than $16 million in state and county subsidies."

He also reported:

"The commonwealth is offering $10 million in cash grants to Nestlé: $6 million as a Commonwealth Opportunity Fund incentive and $4 million from a Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant. Arlington County is offering an additional $6 million in incentives — $4 million from performance grants and $2 million in infrastructure updates — as well as additional money for “extensive relocation assistance” to help cover expenses related to the company’s move and training of new hires.

"Nestlé will spend an estimated $39.8 million building out its share of the 35-story high-rise. The company will take over 40 percent of the building, or about 206,000 square feet, on the top nine floors. The move will begin this summer and is expected to be complete by late 2018.

"Of the 750 positions in Rosslyn, about half will be new hires, Grimwood said. In addition to Nestlé’s corporate operations, the Arlington office will house the company’s confections and beverage businesses, as well as its online division. Nationally, Nestlé has 51,000 employees.

"Monday Properties, a New York-based developer, began building 1812 N. Moore St. in 2010 as the country was slowly recovering from the global financial crisis. By the time the high-rise was completed three years later, Northern Virginia was reeling from widespread government budget cuts and consolidation among defense contractors. Boeing and Northrop Grumman had both moved out of Rosslyn, leaving behind empty buildings. One-quarter of the suburb’s office buildings remain vacant, according to real estate services firm CBRE.

Daniel Sernovitz of the Washington Business Journal also reported on the relocation of Nestle last Wednesday, writing:

"The company will initially lease 206,000 square feet in the building, or about 40 percent, with plans to expand to more than 250,000 square feet over time. The move of Nestle's U.S. headquarters from Glendale, California, will shift nearly 750 jobs to 1812 N. Moore St., where Nestle plans to invest almost $40 million to build out its new space.

"Virginia and Arlington offered more than $16 million in incentives to entice the company to relocate from the West Coast, an economic development tool the county and commonwealth have turned to increasingly to help bring down Northern Virginia's bloated office vacancy rate.

"As I first reported exclusively in November, Nestlé has been in the market for between 150,000 square feet and 200,000 square feet as an alternative to the Switzerland-based company's current space in California. It had narrowed down its search to 1812 N. Moore St. and 1900 Reston Metro Plaza in Fairfax County, sources told me."

Arlington County' press release last Wednesday contained three bullets:

  • Relocation from California to Arlington’s Rosslyn neighborhood
  • Nestlé USA to invest almost $40 million in move, which will create some 750 jobs
  • Company to occupy 206,000 square feet in region’s tallest building beginning in September 2017

The county spinmeisters buried the damage to Arlington County taxpayers into a long paragraph at the bottom of the press release:

"As part of the deal, Nestlé USA will receive a total of $6 million from the Commonwealth of Virginia in a Commonwealth Opportunity Fund grant, which will be matched by Arlington County in the form of $4 million in Industrial Development Authority Performance Incentives grants and $2 million in Arlington County infrastructure mainly focused on Metro, transportation and the area surrounding the new headquarters. Arlington County is also providing extensive relocation assistance to the company to help ensure a seamless transition and maintain a high level of employee retention, including workforce assistance, familiarization tours, a staffed onsite resource center and technology tools to help transferring employees learn more about relocating to Arlington and the entire D.C. region."

In their Business Pulse, the Washington Business Journal asked, "Is luring Nestle to Rosslyn worth more than $16 million in incentives?" As of midnight, there were 74 responses: 69% "believe Nestle is worth the incentives," 19% say "time will tell," and 12% "don't believe Nestle is worth the incentives."

The incentives package cannot be described as anything but generous. Unfortunately, it seems to be the way of the world. After all, how is it any different than the "deal" offered to United Technologies' Carrier Corporation by the incoming Trump-Pence administration to stay in Indiana? In fact, the deal to bring Nestle to Arlington County looks to be twice as generous as the deal worked out by Trump-Pence. That deal, according to the Wall Street Journal, on December 2, 2016, said "Carrier will receive $7 million in tax breaks to keep jobs in Indiana" -- 1,000 jobs in the state, or $7,000 per job. On the other hand, the package for Nestle will bring 750 jobs to Arlington at a cost of $16 million, or just about $21,000 per job.

Unfortunately for Arlington and Virginia taxpayers, the incentive package is sufficiently complex, and split between Arlington County and the Commonwealth. that it cannot be easily untangled.

If you have a question or comment about the Arlington County Board's decision to become involved in the crony capital deal to bring the Nestle Corporation to Arlington, take a few minutes to ask your question or make your opinion known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 05, 2017

A Thought about the Rich and Poor

"I never met a poor person who wanted to soak the rich; they want to get rich."

~ Jack Kemp

Source: Brainy Quote.

                                         - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Kemp "was an American politician and a professional football player. A Republican, he served as Housing Secretary in the administration of President George H. W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, having previously served nine terms as a congressman for Western New York's 31st congressional district, according to Wikipedia.

February 04, 2017

Arlington County's Jobs Picture "Again Best in Commonwealth"

An online story in yesterday's Arlington Sun Gazette reports that "Arlington in December regained sole ownership of the lowest unemployment rate in the commonwealth, according to state figures, as its jobless rate ticked down two notches from a month before."

Here are a few of the details:

"With 144,096 county residents employed in the civilian workforce and 3,729 looking for jobs, Arlington’s unemployment rate of 2.5 percent for the final month of 2016 was down from 2.7 percent in November, according to non-seasonally-adjusted figures reported Feb. 1 by the Virginia Employment Commission.

"The total number of employed Arlingtonians was up and the number seeking jobs declined, part of a general regional trend toward lower unemployment during the month.

"Across Northern Virginia, the jobless rate fell from 2.7 percent to 2.6 percent in Falls Church; from 3 percent to 2.8 percent in Alexandria; from 3.2 percent to 3 percent in both Fairfax and Loudoun counties; and from 3.6 percent to 3.4 percent in Prince William County.

"(In November, Falls Church had tied with Arlington for the lowest unemployment rate in the commonwealth.)

"Across Northern Virginia as a whole, the jobless rate of 3.1 percent was down from 3.3 percent in November, representing about 1.55 million working and 49,300 looking for jobs."

The county's weekly newspaper also reported that Northern Virginia's 3.1% unemployment rate was followed by Charlottesville (3.2% and Winchester (3.3%) . . . "The highest rates were reported in Buchanan County (8.9 percent), Dickenson County (8.6 percent), Wise County (7.6 percent), Page County (7.3 percent) and Petersburg (7.1 percent)."

For a chart of comparable December unemployment rates, and the entire article, click here.

For more Virginia labor market information, click here.

February 03, 2017

A Thought about Normalcy, Revolution, and Politics

"Freezing federal hiring, clamping down on lobbyists and auditing big bureaucracies — after the Obama-era Internal Revenue Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, General Services Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, State Department and Secret Service scandals — are overdue.

"Half the country is having a hard time adjusting to Trumpism, confusing Mr. Trump’s often unorthodox and grating style with his otherwise practical and mostly centrist agenda.

"In sum, Mr. Trump seems a revolutionary, but that is only because he is loudly undoing a revolution.

~ Victor Davis Hanson

Source: his commentary in the February 2, 2017, Washington Times.

                                                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Victor Davis Hanson (born September 5, 1953 in Fowler, California) is an American military historian, columnist, former classics professor, and scholar of ancient agrarian and military history. He has been a commentator on modern warfare and contemporary politics, according to Wikipedia.

February 02, 2017

About Those 'Spikes" in Arlington County Water Bills

The front-page story, by Scott McCaffreey, in this week's Arlington Sun Gazette asks "Is Arlington County drowning in water-bill woes?" The story's sub-title notes that county officials and homeowners are "at odds over summer/fall spikes in usage."

He begins the story, writing:

"Water, water, everywhere. And it’s causing quite a stink.

"Not literally, but certainly figuratively: Accusations and conspiracy theories are flying as some local homeowners saw their summer/fall water bills spike significantly, and are complaining that county-government officials aren’t taking the situation seriously.

“I am underwhelmed at the staff response,” said Sharon Dorsey, president of the Waycroft-Woodlawn Civic Association.

"While she did not see a big spike in her own recent water bill, Dorsey said many have.

“It’s all over my neighborhood,” she said. “People . . . are getting $2,000 bills. That’s nuts.”

"Waycroft-Woodlawn is not alone. Residents of communities across North Arlington have used the Nextdoor social-media platform to complain about high bills and question why they are occurring.

"Country Club Hills, Yorktown, High View Park, Old Dominion and Rock Spring are among the neighborhoods where voices of discontent are being raised.

“Hundreds of homeowners have complained about extraordinarily high water bills,” said Mike Cantwell, president of the Yorktown Civic Association. “Water usage numbers on some bills are five times higher than previous years. It just doesn’t make sense.”

"Among those hit with a whopping bill was Rachel Cohen of the Rock Spring neighborhood. Writing on Nextdoor Yorktown, she said her home’s quarterly water bill rose from $360 in the summer of 2015 to $2,200 in 2016.

“All water systems have been checked – internal and external – with no signs of leakage,” Cohen wrote. “Water usage in the current cycle has reverted to historical (and lower) norms.”

Unfortunately, county officials seem nonplussed. According to McCaffrey:

"To some civic leaders, the county government should be looking at its own operations – from aging infrastructure to computer-software issues – rather than putting all the onus on homeowners.

“The county government refuses to look at other possible causes for the high water bills,” Cantwell said. “Their immediate response is to blame the homeowner.”

"County officials counter that while the issue is raising a lot of heat among neighborhoods, there actually were fewer requests from the public for investigations of high water bills than a year before."

McCaffrey also reported, "The Arlington County Civic Federation, while not having addressed water bills directly, is monitoring the situation, said organization president Stefanie Pryor."

Arlington County taxpayers should check their home's water bills, especially comparing the bill to the same in prior years. If you have a question, contact the county at (703) 228-3000. If you have a comment for the County Board,  write the Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

February 01, 2017

January 2017 Porker of the Month Named Over F-35

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 a press release last week, "Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan its January 2017 Porker of the Month for defending the undeniably wasteful F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program."

Here are the details:

"The F-35 program has been beset with a myriad of problems that are emblematic of the Pentagon’s profligate procurement practices.  The original estimate for the program in 2001 was $233 billion for 2,457 aircraft.  Since then, the costs have ballooned to more than $400 billion.

"As CAGW has long documented, JSF has experienced, “persistent software delays, a lack of communication with other aircraft, issues with the pilot’s helmet resulting in poor rearward visibility and night vision capability, and a gun that will not shoot for at least two more years.”  In 2015, Defense Department officials told the Government Accountability Office that the lifetime cost of the F-35 program would be $1 trillion.  The program has also caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who tweeted on December 12, 2016 that, “The F-35 program and cost is out of control.”

"As the F-35’s numerous issues persist and public outrage grows, the man in charge of the program for the last four years seems to live in an alternate universe.  On December 19, 2016, the Executive Director of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, flatly stated, “This program is not out of control.”  That baffling assertion was followed by an equally surreal admission that the project would require an additional $532 million in 2017 alone.

"CAGW President Tom Schatz said: “The F-35 program is already the most expensive weapons program in American history and symbolizes failed Pentagon procurement practices that result in wasted taxpayer dollars.  Lt. Gen. Bogdan seems all too happy to defend this broken system.  Wasteful Pentagon spending not only offends taxpayers, it represents dollars that are not being spent on America’s critical national defense needs.”

 CAGW's press release has the embedded links that will take you to the supporting documents.

Learn more about Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW). and kudos for their continuing work on behalf of America's taxpayers.