The electric dog fence must be broken, again. State Senator Dick Saslaw, D-Springfield, represents a district entirely in Northern Virginia. As one of the architects of gerrymandering in Virginia, it is no surprise that Saslaw comes from a misshapen district that looks like a B-2 bomber flying over NoVa. However, stealth bombers might do less damage to the residents of Northern Virginia than the “road trips” taken by our elected officials. Who can forget Mount Vernon resident George Allen’s memorable “mecaca trip” to Southwest Virginia where he praised the glories of “the real Virginia” prior to hurling a racial insult at an opposition staffer filming him on videotape? Not to be outdone, Dick Saslaw recently got loose and wandered down Interstate 81 to Staunton to espouse some pretty peculiar ideas. No doubt Saslaw assumed that the residents of NoVa would never hear of his little visit to Staunton. Whereas Mr. Allen didn’t understand the function of a video camera, it seems Mr. Saslaw doesn’t recognize the Internet’s right to exist. But before I get to the trip in question, let me provide some background on Sen. Saslaw.
Is the Pope a Democrat? Dick Saslaw is a classic politician for life. First elected to the General Assembly in 1976, Saslaw has spent 36 consecutive years in our state legislature. His lone attempt at national office came in 1984 against Stan Parris. Saslaw garnered only 43.3% of the votes in that lopsided contest. By way of example, Saslaw’s time in the General Assembly has included the reign of four Catholic Popes. Whereas Popes are elected for life it seems that Saslaw has been elected forever.
Ready, Fire, Aim. Tricky Dick Saslaw is well known for making stupid comments. During the 2008 legislative session Saslaw and a companion entered an elevator in the state house. Once in the elevator, Saslaw quipped, ”I see we’re debating a gun bill today. Half of the cast of ‘Deliverance’ is in town.” Hint to Dick – before saying stupid things in an elevator – look around to see if there are others in the elevator. At least Mitt Romney had to be surreptitiously filmed making his ill-conceived “47 percent” remark. Saslaw makes half-witted comments right out in the open. Which brings us to his trip to Staunton.
Channeling “Joe the Plumber”. Let me start by saying that it’s no easier to understand the meaning of Saslaw’s comments in Staunton than it was to see the logic of Allen’s diatribe in Southwest Virginia. Generally, it seems that Saslaw is concerned about the wealth gap in Virginia and sees a hike in the gas tax as a good way to start solving that problem. Beyond that, all I can do is take the statements from the article and guess what he is thinking.
“The difference in the resources made available for schoolchildren in the Staunton-Augusta County-Waynesboro area compared with Fairfax County is growing, and that’s not right.” While this may be true, it doesn’t establish any level of causality. A quick look at real estate tax rates provides some insight. Fairfax County – 1.075%, Staunton – 0.9%, Augusta County – 0.48%, Waynesboro, 0.75%. Interestingly, the property tax rate in Waynesboro has been steadily shrinking as the educational gulf has been growing. Meanwhile, Fairfax County’s real estate tax rate has been skyrocketing in recent years from 0.89% to 1.075%. These differences in rate are magnified by the extremely high cost of real estate in Fairfax County.
“The state’s got a lot of resources, and we’re not using it …” One must wonder about the resources we possess that are not being used. Why is my hand instinctively drawn to my wallet pocket when I hear a politician say something like this?
“Virginia shouldn’t develop into two states, but it will if its government allows the wealth gap to grow, Saslaw said.” It’s already two states. One half the state wants low tax rates, especially on real estate, and will live with the consequences. The other half is willing to pay higher rates in order to better fund various government services like education. Why is this wrong?
” … (Saslaw) wanted the General Assembly to raise the tax on gasoline about 12 cents a gallon. Most of that wouldn’t be passed on to drivers, and it would raise up to $600 million for transportation. He said he’d use sales tax money to help out poorer school districts. That’s what Saslaw wanted all right. And he didn’t get it. One reason is that few seemed to understand Saslaw’s “logic”. The majority of an increase in the gas tax will not be passed on to drivers? Will the increase just disappear? If so, how did it take Saslaw 36 years to come up with this idea? Or, is Saslaw (a long time owner of gas stations) admitting that the profits on gas in Virginia are so large that 12 cents per gallon is a rounding error? Inquiring minds want to know. Saslaw relentlessly pillories Bob McDonnell for using General Fund money for transportation. He demands separation. Then, he turns around and dreams up a confused gas tax / sales tax/ transportation / education / wealth transfer scheme. While foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds it seems any level of consistency provokes an allergic reaction in Dick Saslaw.
A walking advertisement for term limits. Anybody wondering why 15 U.S. states have term limits for their legislators need only follow the wanderings and ponderings of Dick Saslaw. From gratuitous insults in elevators to unexplained economic theories, Dick Saslaw proves that nothing should be allowed to go on forever.
– D.J. Rippert