Another Broken Tax Promise?

A number of bloggers on Bacon’s Rebellion have wondered why Gov. Timothy M. Kaine devoted so much time to holding public hearings about transportation around the state. Transportation has been hashed out in innumerable studies and hearings already. Kaine had heard a belly full of talk about transportation on the campaign trail, and he’d posted detailed and well-crafted commentary about the topic on his campaign website.

Did Kaine really expect to learn anything new in the public hearings? Or was the tour really a smoke screen — designed to provide cover for the $1 billion tax increase proposal that he dropped on the General Assembly last week?

In his campaign essay, “Moving Virginia Forward, Reducing Traffic,” Kaine talks about “locking up the Transportation Trust Fund.” He talks about increasing efficiency at VDOT. He talks about using General Fund surpluses to finance transportation projects. He talks about attracting private investment for toll-financed projects like HOT lanes.

But he never, repeat never, talks about increasing the sales tax on automobiles as a way to raise more money. Indeed, he implies that new tax revenues are not necessary.

There are ways to provide additional support for transportation without raising taxes and without putting transportation projects in competition with schools and other general fund priorities.

Tim Kaine never uttered a memorable line like, “Read my lips, I won’t increase your taxes.” He never swore in front of TV news cameras, like his predecessor did, that he would never, never, never raise taxes. S0, I suppose one could argue that his $1 billion proposal doesn’t represent the world’s fastest breaking of faith with the voters.

But I am inclined to disagree. Consider the quote above: “There are ways to provide additional support for transportation without raising taxes.” Consider that Kaine repeatedly said that “you can’t pave your way out of traffic congestion.” Consider the fact that the $1 billion tax-hike package was never part of his campaign platform. Overall, he created the impression — at least with me — that a tax increase was not in the cards.

The cynical interpretation of Kaine’s action is that he hid his intention from the voters simply to get elected. The charitable interpretation is that he was so blown away by the findings of his transportation hearings that he changed his mind and decided that a tax increase was justified after all. Yeah, right.

Which gets us back to those hearings. Why did he hold them in the first place? Did he really need to be told, again, that the transportation crisis is urgent? Did he really need to hear, again, that people don’t like sitting in traffic congestion? My suspicion is that he needed something to justify the tax increases that he’d planned all along. But it’s only a suspicion. I would welcome any evidence that my ellow bloggers could present either pro and con.


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Comments

13 responses to “Another Broken Tax Promise?”

  1. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I questioned the whole town hall concept before it started and was told to shut up.

  2. E M Risse Avatar

    Jim:

    Facing reality is more than any person who chooses to run for public office at this time can do.

    That is because the voters have been kept in the dark about the need for Fundamental Change and just want to hear that things can be fixed.

    The four-year term limit for Governor sets up the condition you describe so well.

    It is a task for PROPERTY DYNAMICS. We have see nothing else that even comes close.

    EMR

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar

    In New England town meetings, the culmination of the discussion is a vote. Calling th Kaine charade a town meeting is a joke. Nevertheless, based on the one I attended, it seemed clear to me that the concensus was that people want action, and they are willing to pay for it.

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I need Fundamental Change in my farm trucks. I don’t get it because I know that fundamental change is orders of magnitude more costly thanfixing what I have.

  5. Keep your powder dry, Will. You may just find something in the Kaine plan you like.

    I’m partial to the “beating gums and swords” comment myself. Pure poetry.

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Will, I was obliquely referring to you when I noted that “a number of bloggers” had questioned the utility of the meetings.

    I’ve got a question for you: Since when did you ever “shut up” when someone told you to? See what happens when you do? You get a tax increase!

  7. E M Risse Avatar

    Fixing What We Have?

    Right on!

    That means fixing the settlement pattern so it is transportable.

    That is far faster, and creates more positive economic activity than building transport facilities that spur ever more dysfunctional development patterns.

    You may recall we have suggested evolving Balanced Communities in sustainable New Urban Region.

    There is no alternative to Fundamental Change in human settlement patterns and Fundamental Change in governance structure.

    Now that “Collapse” is in paperback, and near the top of the Best Seller List, give it a spin.

    EMR

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t think the town hall meetings can be taken to imply support.

    The people who didn’t want to raise taxes for roads wouldn’t have shown up at the events, since Kaine had said he wouldn’t raise taxes for transportation until he could guarantee the trust fund was safe.

    So the only people who would bother to show up would be people who would try to change his mind, and people who will benefit greatly from more roads.

    I don’t live 30 miles and one large traffic jam away from where I work, so I didn’t go to a town meeting about transportation. But people who want all of us to pay more in taxes so they can have easier commutes DID show up.

    Kaine didn’t draw up this plan in the last two weeks.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Believe it or not, Anon 5:01, I think he did draw up the plan in the last two weeks, if not the last few days — at least the detailed choices of funding options. But during the campaign I heard him say it was coming — the only issue between what we see today and what we heard in October is in October he was talking about locking up the money first, leaving some worried it would be at least three years before anything substantive would be done.

  10. This could be yet another example of the doublespeak of “what the meaning of ‘is’ is” –

    He said there ARE ways to provide support without raising taxes. He NEVER said he would pursue THOSE ways. So, he says the non-taxing ways are out there, but he never once says that he will utilize those non-taxing ways.

    Of course, maybe elsewhere in his statement he specifically says NO TAX INCREASES.

    His remarks, like those of just about every other politician, are designed to say something, while in reality, saying nothing.

  11. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 7:27, You say, “during the campaign I heard him say it (a tax increase) was coming.” Do you recall any more details?

    As I made it very clear in my original post, it’s not as if Kaine ever vowed NOT to raise taxes. I followed the issue pretty closely, and I got the sense, as you alluded to, that he was open to the idea of raising taxes after the lockbox was put into place. But I certainly don’t remember anything indicating that he intended to put a $1 billion tax increase into place as soon as he got into office.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Didn’t most of the old white male Republicans on this site vote for GWB twice? You know, the guy who started a worthless war that econ James Stiglitz just said will cost us 1 to 2 trillion smackolas before all the costs are over? I don’t see you complaining about W much. A billion or two is chump change.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Ooh, good point.

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