Dick Saslaw Outlines His Wealth Redistribution Plan

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

30 Responses to Dick Saslaw Outlines His Wealth Redistribution Plan

  1. New Hampshire has an interesting way of meeting the SCOTUS edict of equitable funding of education.

    they have BOTH a local AND a state property tax (and NO Income or Sales Tax).

    the locality collects the property tax for the State and then the state Judicial system allocates the funding for local schools.

    Most states have some version of what NH and Va do – which is a statewide funding stream and then reallocating it based on a “need” criteria.

    It IS, of all the “wealth transfer” policies of government, one of the biggest if not the biggest in terms of single, elderly, married without kids having to fork over about 1/2 or more of their state/local taxes for schools.

    DJ is hot on the geographic “wealth transfer” but not so much on the “other” wealth transfers…

    :-)

    p.s. – I .. how can I say this… even if DJ is 1000% correct about Saslaw, it comes across as something bordering as a personal attack.

    There are ways to get the idea across without being so direct…although if the writer thinks the shoe fits the person being written about, so be it.

    • LarryG:

      If Dick Saslaw had the balls to stand up in Northern Virginia and say, “We’re not paying enough in taxes to subsidize education elsewhere in the state. I want you to pay more so other localities can have more money.” I’d give him his due. Just like I would have given George Allen more respect if he held a meeting in his hometown of Mt Vernon and said, “This is not the real Virginia. The real Virginia with real Virginians is far from here.”.

      But neither of them do that. They slip around Northern Virginia with nary a word about wealth transfers or being part of the fake Virginia. Then, they slink off and try to curry favor downstate by making all kinds of outlandish statements.

      These guys, like many NoVa politicians, have one story in NoVa and a whole different story elsewhere.

      It’s time that everybody in NoVa start demanding that our politicians have the same story here as they do in Richmond or out on the campaign trail.

    • As for my thoughts on “wealth transfer” – Saslaw owes his own constituents an explanation of the vast differences in real estate tax rates before he starts demanding more money flow from already high-tax NoVa to jurisdiction with far lower tax rates.

  2. What are the odds the Washington Post will not report Saslaw’s remarks? About 100 to one. As I’ve said many times, we screw ourselves regularly in NoVA.

  3. I know I’m flogging a dead horse here but every single state has to do the same thing with regard to equitable funding of education across it’s geography.

    It inevitably begets some form of “wealth transfer” from the richer locales to the poorer ones.

    For instance, New Hampshire at the state level collects property taxes from all property owners – and then redistributes geographically.

    But I’m curious – what money is being taken away from NoVa that is really NoVa’s money to start with?

    bonus question:

    If YOU buy into the concept of geographic equity for education – then what mechanism would you suggest is a better, more fair way than the current method?

    step up boys.

    • Why do you believe that every state HAS to do this?

    • “If YOU buy into the concept of geographic equity for education – then what mechanism would you suggest is a better, more fair way than the current method?”.

      Raise the property tax rate in Augusta County to something beyond the anemic 0.48%?

      Demand that the local government in Waynesboro stop LOWERING the property tax rate (although they raised it slightly in the last pass)?

  4. well because virtually every state does it in some fashion and at one time I thought there was a SCOTUS ruling to that effect but I am unable to find it now.

    but most States through their own State Constitutions have words to the effect that EACH CHILD is ENTITLED to an equitable share of education resources.

    If you AGREE with this concept – as I think I’ve heard you say before and you do not like the current approach, name an alternative approach that accomplishes the equitable access – without inter-regional wealth transfers.

  5. I suspect that the reason the funding is carried out in this fashion is because it saves the responsibility from falling to the local government.

    So for a gap in funding, one certainly exists. But the difference is much of NoVA’s education budget is raised by local taxes where the rest of the state’s is made up primarily of state funding. It feels like common knowledge that NoVA subsidizes the school systems of the rest of the state and the rest of the state subsidizes transportation for NoVA. Most of us just consider it a wash and go about our day.

    There used to be a site where you could look at the funding for any school and find the local, state, and fed contribution, but I can’t seem to find it any more.

  6. The two biggest problems with the LCI (Local Composite Index) for distributing state aid to education are: 1) it does not recognize differences in the cost of living; thus, screwing NoVA; and 2) it does not require a minimum local taxing effort. As Vince Callahan liked to say, we raise state aid to education and the rest of the state cuts their real estate taxes. Meanwhile real estate taxes go up in NoVA as do class sizes.

  7. well no.. the State is the responsible party according to our Constitution.

    so the state did put together a plan for funding – 1% sales tax and they use than money to backfill counties that are not able to provide enough resources.

    If you look at the State’s Composite Index – it DOES take into account the locality’s “ability to pay” and it uses the same criteria for all counties.

    I do not think that NoVa “subsidizes” the rest of the state when the State itself is levying the 1% tax – statewide for THAT purpose.

    Would we take the same attitude towards the rest of sales tax that they state collects and spends across the state also?

    here’s the site you were looking for I think:

    http://www.doe.virginia.gov/school_finance/budget/compositeindex_local_abilitypay/index.shtml

    but again, I’d ask – if you accept the premise that the State takes responsibility to insure each child receives equitable resources no matter where they live – what alternative approach would you take that avoided the inter-regional “wealth transfer”.

    Methinks folks don’t want to choose here.

    but take a principled stand – one way or the other – don’t sit on the fence.

    • Larry, ability to pay is different from a minimum local tax effort and also different from a considertation of cost of living. I don’t mind sending tax dollars to help fund schools in poor areas if they make a minimum local tax effort and also have aid based on a formula that considers cost of living.

  8. TMT – can you explain the difference?

    and what difference would cost of living make if the poor locality still did not have enough resources?

    The LCI REQUIRES that the locality pay some amount that they are said to be able to have the ability to pay.

    what other measure would you use?

    this sounds like re-arranging the deck chairs because at the end of the day – you have to have a process to determine ability to pay and even if you adjust for cost of living in high cost areas – it doesn’t change the fact that low-income areas will still need help.

    The state has carved out 1% of the sales tax to do this process.

    there is no way that NoVa will pay less than 1% while other areas will pay more.

    The 1% NEVER belonged to NoVa to start with – no more than the State income tax belongs to them.

    where did ya’ll get this idea from?

    it appears to me that no matter what process you use – inevitably, there will be an inter-regional transfer of wealth.

    TMT – you’re arguing about what the amount should be, not the idea that there should be the process, right?

    • Larry, I don’t oppose the LCI process per se. It is likely required by the state constitution and has an element of fairness about it. But it is very flawed because it does not consider differences in cost of living. Take a house worth $100,000, for example. It might be a nice house in parts of the state, but it wouldn’t buy squat in Fairfax County. Ditto for a $40,000 salary. There should be some adjustment in the formula so that a $100,000 house in Augusta County is pegged to its equivalent in Fairfax County. Same for adjusted gross income.
      It’s as flawed as Obama’s argument that every couple making $250,000 is “rich.” $250,000 in income buys a whole lot more in Tulsa, OK than in Annandale, VA. I have a good friend who is a lawyer in Des Moines. He started working for a Chicago firm, but later, he and his wife decided to move back to Iowa. He took a big pay cut when he was hired in Des Moines, but is living better because of the lower cost of living.
      The fact the LCI doesn’t recognize these differences make it unfair to people in NoVA.

      • TMT – I’m not quite following… even if you corrected for cost-of-living across the state – in both rich and poor counties what effect would that have since the state is still collecting the 1% sales tax and still allocating it accord to how much it actually costs to staff the SOQs.

        You’re still working off the same total money… so how would cost of living change the allocation?

  9. to keep us on track here:

    The Local Composite Index determines a school division’s ability to pay education costs fundamental to the commonwealth’s Standards of Quality (SOQ). The Composite Index is calculated using three indicators of a locality’s ability-to-pay:

    True value of real property (weighted 50 percent)
    Adjusted gross income (weighted 40 percent)
    Taxable retail sales (weighted 10 percent)
    Each locality’s index is adjusted to maintain an overall statewide local share of 45 percent and an overall state share of 55 percent.

    Now if you DO BELIEVE that we should equitably fund regardless of Geography – what would you change above?

    • LarryG:

      You should address your question to Sen Saslaw, a 36 year General Assembly veteran. After all, it was Saslaw who said:

      “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…”.

      He is the person claiming that the current system doesn’t work.

  10. The Saslaw remarks are screwy in so many ways. Here’s what struck me. He wants to make the rich pay their fair share? Gasoline taxes are incredibly regressive! Poor Virginians who don’t own cars, don’t suffer. But working-class stiffs who drives themselves to work get hit the hardest!

    • Saslaw is “doing an Obama”. Floating around telling people that all their problems are the result of an unfair system. Promising more money (taken from others) to fix all the problems. “Everybody will pay more for gas but I’ll make sure that you nice people get a differential amount of that money for your schools. Just vote Democratic in November.”.

      Actually, it’s unfair to Obama to compare him to Saslaw. Obama has been “out front” on his tax hikes. Saslaw creeps around behind his constituents’ backs promising others their money.

      Term limits are the only answer to politicians like Saslaw.

      • I’d be remiss that neither Obama nor Saslaw can spend money that has not been approved and appropriated by others.

        they can advocate all they want but at the end of the day – a whole bunch of other guys control the purse strings.

        DJ is getting confused between leadership and governance.

        re: term limits – remember the infamous “Contract with America” which agreed with DJ and promised “reforms”?

        ha ha hahahahbhahahabhahahah

        No one more than I would LOVE to see misanthropes who now infest the GOP in Va let out to pasture so they can chew their cud without the rest of us enjoying it.

        Every single TWEET and TOME from Cantor and company is like a box of rancid faux Forest Gump chocolates.

        the GOP guys who blew up the budget under Bush now spend their time pissing and moaning about the debt that is still accumulating as a result of their MAJORITY votes for tax cuts, wars, and Medicare that they now say Obama is spending..as if he is the one who decided to spend it instead of them.

        but I digress – BIG TIME :-)

        In the larger context of Obama and the Virginia GA and McDonnell and Chap Peterson, the Cooch, etc, et al, ad infinitum and nauseum to boot – Saslaw is a toy chiwawa who is a serious threat to anyone wearing sandals with big toes exposed.

        but apparently DJ has indeed, a seriously damaged toe…. so we get the tome.

        such is life.

  11. geeze.. this is the legitimate subject of an article?

    lord. lord.

    I give DJ credit… this is like seeing Tourette Syndrome in print!

    just tweaking you guy… ;-)

    • Gotta love LarryG. He posts six lengthy comments about an article and then, with his seventh comment, questions the legitimacy of the article.

      There may be a spot for you on the next Saslaw re-election committee.

  12. Well DJ.. I LIKE your writing and wish you’d write more and you DO HAVE some very good points and insight quite often

    BUT (there is always a “but”)

    this sounds like a cross between a hit piece on Saslaw and continual rehashing of the “RoVa Robs NoVa” show….

    but hey.. you have not written for a while so I don’t want to discourage you… keep up the good work!

    :-) entertaining for sure!

    • It’s more of a complaint about NoVa politicians saying one thing in Northern Virginia and something else in other places (like during the General Assembly session). The reporting up here is God awful, most people consider themselves “too busy” to bother digging into what the state or local politicians are doing. So, when I see an example of “say one thing in NoVa and something else outside of NoVa”, I am going to point it out.

      As for a hit piece on Saslaw – Sen Saslaw has no problem insulting gun rights advocates (which includes me). So, I assume he will understand that turnabout is fair play.

  13. Don the Ripper,
    I really appreciate your fun way of writing and your appreciation of outlining how smaller regions get screwed. Unlike LarryG, I do not see this as an unwarranted personal attack and it is certainly not libelous at all. I do agree with Saslaw on a lot of stuff, however.

    • Peter:

      Thank you. My problems with Saslaw are more around his methods than his positions. He’s a machine politician who never faces effective competition in any election. Yet, he receives a fortune in campaign contributions. Why? Why do people contribute to a state senator who usually wins re-election with 70 – 80% of the vote? He barely has to campaign to win. People give him money so he can play “king maker” by making donations from his re-election fund to other politicians. Most people don’t know how much Virginia politics resembles Chicago politics. Saslaw is like one of those life-long Aldermen you see in Chicago.

  14. So, Larry … when I say the reporting is God awful, I can provide evidence. Here is a good article from lefty blog Blue Virginia:

    http://www.bluevirginia.us/showDiary.do?diaryId=8206

    Who is shining a light on the General Assembly and its members? Fewer and fewer people it seems.

    • Despite its claims to the contrary, the editorial board of the Post does influence news reporting. The board, which generally accepts contrary positions on international and national issues, will not tolerate anything that contradicts Lee Hockstader’s “raising taxes in Virginia cures all problems” approach. It goes beyond rejecting op-ed pieces to not reporting on news stories that might suggest solutions to problems are broader than just a need for more revenue.
      What is even more troublesome is that no one on the editorial board lives in Virginia. Given the Post’s continuing decline in revenue, why does management protect the egos of its editorial board?

  15. sure they do…

    ” Karl Rove and Dick Morris banned from Fox News”

    but complaining about the media in the internet age seems silly when there are almost infinite alternate reportings.

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