Tag Archives: Stephen D. Haner

JLARC Agrees: VA Economy Lags National Growth

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

This makes if official: Even the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) has documented and highlighted how poorly Virginia’s economy is performing, how far our state is lagging national growth averages.

Source: JLARC 2021 Report on Virginia State Spending, Slide 7.

The admission comes in the most recent summary on state spending trends, an annual report (detailed version here) which was submitted to and approved by the legislators on the panel last week. It covers the ten-year period of 2012-2021 and does a rolling update on previous years.

Virginia’s average annual change in gross domestic product of 1.2% was just 63% of the national average, our per capita income grew 1.1% annually (58% of the national average) and our labor force grew just 0.6% annually over the period, 60% of the national average. The general correlation of the three deficits just demonstrates their interdependence. Continue reading

The State Tax Gravy Train Accelerates

by Steve Haner

First published today by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Any claim that Virginia cannot reduce taxes on its citizens without damaging state programs has been further eroded by two recent announcements.

The explosion of revenue from recent state tax increases is continuing into this new fiscal year, pointing to a potential repeat of last year’s $2.6 billion general fund surplus, which the state’s leadership is still trying to attribute to anything but its tax legislation. In the first three months of this new fiscal year general fund revenue is running $570 million ahead of last year’s record amounts, blowing out projections that assumed last year’s surplus was pandemic-related lagniappe.

The flood of money wasn’t related to the pandemic, not totally. It was related to tax policy decisions made in 2019, 2020 and 2021, the bulk of the surplus revenue coming from higher individual and corporate income taxes.

Adding to that, the Virginia Retirement System told legislators Monday that it has done so well with its investments (a 27% return in one year), the next General Assembly will be able to reduce the amount of cash it invests in the next few years, a significant reduction in annual costs. Continue reading

Climate Rationality Preached in a UVA Pulpit

Jason S. Johnston, Professor, University of Virginia School of Law

by Steve Haner

Efforts to rapidly expand our reliance on wind and solar generation for electricity, while at the same time closing baseload natural gas generation with similar haste, makes no sense economically. “The only explanation for that policy is you want to shut down the economy.”

Another voice of reason has emerged to challenge the climate alarmist orthodoxy, a Virginia voice,  Professor Jason S. Johnston at the University of Virginia School of Law. He brings to the discussion the experience and analysis of a regulatory law expert and economist, distilled into a somewhat daunting 656-page book published by Cambridge University Press in August.

“Climate Rationality: From Bias to Balance” (available through Amazon here) focuses at length on the legal precautionary principle behind most climate regulatory schemes, with little or no consideration taken of either the economic costs or unintended environmental consequences. He writes in an excerpt from his introduction:

The precautionary principle says little if anything about how such costs should be weighed in designing policy. But, given the highly uncertain and unpredictable future impacts of rising atmospheric GHG concentrations and the unprecedented cost of reducing GHG emissions, any rational regulatory response to curbing human GHG emissions must surely closely scrutinize the case for decarbonization. The purpose of this book is to provide precisely such an examination…

Precautionary US climate policy has already cost lives, damaged the environment, and increased costs for the basic life necessities, such as electricity, in ways that are felt most acutely by the poorest American households.

Continue reading

Dominion and Despicable Voter Suppression

So it was Dominion Energy paying for campaign ads opposing gun regulation! Here is why.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s knowing participation in an effort to suppress the November 2 vote, aimed mainly at Western Virginia Republicans, is a truly despicable act. It should enrage all Virginians, without regard to party. This is a state-created and regulated monopoly and the $200,000 it spent on this underhanded activity was provided by captive customers.

I further assert that in previous election cycles, as heavily as Dominion funded various candidates, this type of expense would not have been approved by the management, including the late Thomas Farrell. But Farrell is dead and the political deciders at the top now are both long-time partisan Democrats who fully understood they were paying for voter suppression.

I would be expressing no anger whatsoever if Dominion had merely donated $200,000 directly and openly to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. It would have been a logical move to support a former governor who strongly backed its failed natural gas pipeline project, and now has pledged to deeply enrich the company by accelerating the transition to unreliable renewable generation instead.

McAuliffe is nothing if not flexible. I used another word to describe his subservience to Dominion on Twitter yesterday and got blocked for 12 hours. Continue reading

More Proof Virginia Disclosure Laws are Crap

Former Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan

by Steve Haner

In 2020, according to documents filed with the State Corporation Commission, Dominion Energy Virginia paid former state Senator John Watkins $92,297 for lobbying services. At the end of the reporting period, it officially claimed spending only $1,641 for him to influence the legislative process.

In a similar manner, former Fairfax Delegate John Rust was retained over four years for a combined $265,000. But for his services in 2020, the year of the massive Virginia Clean Economy Act, Dominion’s lobbying expense disclosure listed his fee at $7,679.

The full payments to both former Republican legislators, all perfectly legal, are the subject of an online article on the Richmond Times Dispatch website, probably awaiting print publication. It also focuses on large payments made to a Hampton Roads journalist and former Democratic gubernatorial aide, which Dominion never had to disclose on any state report since buying friendly editorials isn’t covered by disclosure laws.

Add up the reported payments to all the other outside law and lobbying firms Dominion hired, compare them to the official disclosures, and a similar pattern of under reporting will be evident. The reporter missed the best part of this story — that information gap.

What do we learn here?  Anything we didn’t know? Continue reading

Why Virginia Job Growth Lags Region, Nation

Chesapeake Climate Action Network webpage boasting about the defeat of a gas pipeline expansion, a signal seen by location managers all around the U.S.

by Steve Haner

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation… Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months… I’m proud of our roaring economic growth…”

So claimed Governor Ralph Northam (D) in a September 17 news release.

It came just after Virginia’s economy showed especially anemic results in August employment data, capping a period of poor performance effectively described in a recent Bacon’s Rebellion post by Richmond economist A. Fletcher Mangum.  Virginia’s job growth this spring and summer has trailed the vast majority of other states, with the August data placing us at a shameful 47th out of 50. Simply achieving the national average growth rate that month would have meant 75,000 more jobs. Continue reading

McAuliffe Promise to Accelerate VCEA Schedule Will Accelerate VCEA Consumer Bill Increases

2020 SCC staff projection of monthly residential bill increases by 2030 for Dominion Energy Virginia customers, mainly tied to a rapid retreat from fossil fuels.

by Steve Haner

When a State Corporation Commission staff analysis warned last year of $808 annual increases in Dominion Energy Virginia residential bills by 2030, that 58% increase was based on the existing deadlines set for Dominion’s conversion away from using fossil fuels.

Change the deadlines, change the cost. Shorten the deadlines by half, as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is promising to do, and 2030 electricity costs will grow even higher.  Continue reading

Of Course Tax Hikes Grew the State Surpluses

Senate Finance Committee data illustrated the expected state revenue boost caused by 2017 federal changes. Predicted and seen in 2019 and 2020, it carried over into 2021.

by Steve Haner

At Tuesday night’s debate Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe dismissed the 2021 $2.6 billion general fund revenue surplus as entirely due to extra federal COVID relief funds, which is absurd on its face. By definition, every dollar is general fund state tax revenue. It came from some form of state tax.

Why do Virginia Democrats continue to deny that recent state tax law changes are in part responsible for almost-embarrassing large cash surpluses recently announced? At the time the deeds were done, nobody was denying the big revenue impacts. The really big hit was a totally bipartisan decision, so Democrats can share the credit or blame.   Continue reading

More Ignored News: Bag Tax Coming to Richmond

From American Progressive Bag Alliance flyer opposing local bag taxes.

by Steve Haner

The plastic bag tax recently approved in Roanoke and several Northern Virginia localities, created by the General Assembly in 2020 as a local option, is also coming to the City of Richmond. It was promised in the same September 13 Richmond City Council “climate crisis” resolution that implied a future closure of the Richmond Gas WorksContinue reading

Henrico, Chesterfield Users of Richmond Gas Unprotected by SCC, State Law

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

Sec. 13.10. No sale or lease of utilities except when approved by referendum. There shall be no sale or lease of the water, wastewater, gas or electric utilities unless the proposal for such sale or lease shall first be submitted to the qualified voters of the city at a general election and be approved by a majority of all votes cast at such election.

That provision is in the charter for the City of Richmond, part of the Code of Virginia. Note it does not require the city’s leaders to consult with the people before closing a city-owned utility, just before the sale or lease.  Continue reading

SCC Staff: Dominion Should Refund $312M, Cut Rates, Due to $1.14B Excess Profits

SCC Staff summary showing how $1.14 billion in Dominion Energy Virginia excess profits get whittled down to only a possible $312 million refund.  Step one, not shown, is the law allows the company to keep the first 70 basis points of excess profit no questions asked.  Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Customers of Dominion Energy Virginia are due a refund of $312 million and the company’s future base rates should be reduced by another $50 million annually, the utility accounting staff at the State Corporation Commission concluded in testimony filed September 17.

Patrick W. Carr, deputy director of the division of utility accounting and finance, was joined in filing testimony by ten other members of that staff, but he provided the baseline result in his opening summary.

In the staff’s opinion, Dominion earned $1.143 billion of profit in excess of its allowed 9.2% return on equity during the four year period it reviewed, 2017 through 2020. The company will vigorously dispute those claims in rebuttal testimony, it is safe to predict.

The State Corporation Commission is entering the key phase of its so-called “triennial review,” which in Dominion’s case covers an extra year because that is what it asked of the Virginia General Assembly, and the Assembly seldom declines DEV’s requests. This is the first full audit of the company’s finances since 2015, which covered the two prior years of 2013 and 2014. Continue reading

Richmond Wants to Kill Its Gas Utility, Also Ending Service in Henrico, Chesterfield

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the (Richmond) Council hereby commits to working with the City’s Administration on an equitable plan to phase out reliance on gas and shift to accelerated investment in City-owned renewable energy and hereby recognizes that the continued operation of the City’s gas utility is an obstacle to the City’s goal of Net-Zero emissions in accordance Resolution No. 2020-R024, adopted June 8, 2020.

Translation:  The Richmond Gas Works, a municipal owned public service utility, is targeted for closure.   Council sees its continued operation as “an obstacle.”  The 117,600 customers (as of 2018) will need to run their lives and businesses without natural gas.  Those customers are not confined to the city itself but are also located in Henrico and Chesterfield counties.  Continue reading

Conference Explores VA Rush to Copy CA Energy

by Steve Haner

Californians were again this week under an electricity “flex alert,” a conservation order required because of its reliance on unreliable solar and wind energy. They often cannot keep up with demand on the hotter days. Is this Virginia’s future? The government is telling Californians:

  • Set your thermostat at 78° or higher
  • Avoid using major appliances
  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Use fans for cooling
  • Unplug unused items.

The return of this power shortfall comes just days before Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall vote, with this growing crisis being cited by some of his opponents. It is also a distant cloud on Virginia’s horizon as early voting begins here next week in the elections for statewide offices and the House of Delegates.

Virginia has rushed to copy California’s climate-fear and rent-seeking driven solar and wind energy scheme. Continue reading

Youngkin Promises to Reverse Northam Tax Hikes

by Steve Haner

Republican gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin is proposing to reduce Virginians’ taxes in much the same way Governor Ralph Northam raised them: Use several individual proposals, some not all that large, which accumulate into a significant change.

As Northam ends his term, his attitude seems to be, what tax increases? He claims the current $2.6 billion general fund surplus and the almost $400 million transportation fund surplus are due to economic growth. Continue reading

Virginia Has a Rising Sea Problem, Relatively

Ninety years of relative sea level rise (SLR) at Norfolk’s Sewells Point gauge, with mean lines added by Kip Hansen. It is about two-third due to sinking land, one-third due to long term absolute SLR, and in no way due to modern CO2 emissions.

by Steve Haner and Kip Hansen

When discussing sea level rise, on Virginia’s coast or anywhere else, watch the terms being used very carefully. Absolute sea level is the height of the ocean compared to the center of the Earth. Relative sea level is the height of the ocean compared to a specific point on the shore. They are not the same. Continue reading