Author Archives: Steve Haner

Memorial Day 2020

It can’t all be John Philip Sousa today…. Pete Seeger captured the day best. Thankful that my grandfather, father and uncles, and my brother and son….all came home safe.    SDH

US Cemetery, Normandy, 2017

Why Is Our Governor Ignoring His Own Orders?

By Steve Haner

If the overall case fatality rate for COVID-19 is 4 tenths of one percent, as the Centers for Disease Control just estimated, then perhaps 300,000 Virginians have or have had the disease.  That’s working the math backwards from the 1,200 Virginia deaths reported so far.

The chart below snipped from the CDC’s report shows four possible scenarios and the fifth column is marked “most likely” case fatality rate. As we all now know, age is the key factor, and the death rate for persons 65+ is the highest, perhaps as high as 3.2%. But the CDC thinks most likely it is 1.3% in that group, and as low as 0.05% for those under 50 (5 deaths in 10,000 infections).

Source: CDC. The right hand column is marked as the most likely case fatality rates, with other four columns showing the range. Click for larger view.

Here’s the similar chart from a recently-released antibody study in Spain, with a random sample of around 70,000 individuals. The Fear Mongers point to the conclusion that only 5% of the country’s population shows antibodies, although it is far higher where the disease was more common. But the first column is the calculated infection fatality rate, IFR, very similar to the CDC study.

 

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New Virginia Battleground in War on Gas

The northern part of the Header Improvement Project. Source: VNG Application at SCC. You can see the full project map here.

By Steve Haner

First published this morning in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

To the modern environmental movement, natural gas is the Devil’s own breath. It must be opposed in every form on every front.

This explains the existential battle being fought over what would otherwise be considered fairly minor capital enhancements to an existing gas pipeline connecting Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. Virginia Natural Gas is seeking to increase the capacity of that line with a 6-mile extension to connect to the Transco pipeline near Quantico.

Those six miles are the only new section of pipeline in the Header Improvement Project. Elsewhere, the existing pipeline will see three miles of parallel pipe added to increase capacity in Fauquier County and 14 miles more north and east of Richmond. Three compressor stations are also proposed, one each at the northern and southern ends and one in the middle of the route near Ladysmith. The whole project is priced in at about $345 million.

The objections display hypocrisy. Opponents of the proposed multi-billion dollar Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley natural gas pipelines have often pointed to the actual or potential capacity of the state’s existing lines. Those are sufficient for Virginia’s needs, they say. The minor proposed improvements strengthen that argument, and logically should be embraced by those opposed to the mega-projects to the south.

Yet VNG’s proposal is drawing the same level of heated opposition as the major projects, with their hundreds of miles of new construction. Even a six-mile extension of an old pipeline is a path to perdition. Continue reading

Trailing Candidates Should Bail Out, Void Primary

By Steve Haner

More often than not, the suspense in an election is over long before the polls open. That is the case with the two primary contests which will require me to sit in a polling place all day on June 23. The expected losers should just drop out now and save us all the risk.

The precinct where I work has both a Republican and a Democratic contest scheduled, which will require my co-workers and me to be at the polling station from 5 a.m. until 8 p.m. Based on what happened in the local elections yesterday, it will mostly be voting from cars – in a location with very little parking.  Continue reading

Taken Like Hicks At A Carnival

By Steve Haner

Anybody who closely read the so-called Virginia Clean Economy Act and had watched Dominion Energy Virginia’s previous manipulations of Virginia’s General Assembly could see what was coming. Despite its “billing,” that bill was never going to end the use of fossil fuels in Virginia.

As early as February 13, I reported that to readers of Bacon’s Rebellion, in “Energy Omnibus II: It Doesn’t Shut Gas Plants.”  Later bill versions were even less restrictive.  Continue reading

What Campbell Is Really Saying In the Photo

(Photo credit RTD)

“Mara, you call Haner back.  He’s really gonna be pissed he can’t come in Monday.”

Somebody has to explain to me how my getting a haircut in downtown Richmond Monday posed a threat to city residents, city residents who will now be crowding into the barber shops and salons of nearby Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover County.  The same city residents who can and will by the thousands visit stores, patio restaurants and other business in those localities, often just yards from the city line.  Mayor Levar Stoney’s unilateral decision had nothing to do with infection control and will accomplish nothing.  SDH

Hidden, Spaced Out, Higher Taxes Coming

The green areas are regional transportation districts where additional fuel taxes are already being collected, 7.6 cents per gallon on gasoline and 7.7 cents per gallon on diesel. Effective July 1 those regional fuel taxes will be imposed in all the other Virginia localities. In combination with the 5 cent per gallon increase in the statewide gasoline tax, the total tax on fuel goes to 28.8 cents on gasoline and 27.9 cents on diesel.

By Steve Haner

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

The 2020 General Assembly, with its new progressive Democratic majority, passed a host of changes in Virginia tax laws that will begin to hit individuals and businesses in a few weeks on July 1.  Because of the COVID-19 economic shutdown, a few amendments were made to the implementation schedule during the reconvened session on April 22, but no tax increase was repealed.

This is a follow up on an earlier report on the sixteen tax bills that passed the regular session. Most are taxes will be buried almost invisibly in various transactions, and their phased imposition will also keep many taxpayers from noticing them.

July 1, 2020

The statewide tax on gasoline increases from 16.2 cents per gallon to 21.2 cents per gallon (a 31% increase) and is no longer tied going forward to the rise or fall of wholesale cost.  Continue reading

State Spending Hike Also Postponed, Not Canceled

By Steve Haner

 Originally published in the May 3 Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and then distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. 

Just as COVID-19 was starting its destruction of the world’s economy in early March, the Virginia General Assembly took final action on an exuberant two-year state budget within shouting distance of $140 billion. Six weeks later at the Reconvened Session, with the economic damage obvious but not yet measured, the Assembly reaffirmed the same spending plan.

Rather than substantially cut the budget, Governor Ralph Northam and his finance team proposed to delay the vast majority of the newly authorized spending and decide later whether the state can afford it. About $2.3 billion in increased spending will remain in the budget, but frozen until a new revenue forecast is presented later this year. A special session will then be called where legislators either release the freezes or approve other actions.  Continue reading

Clean Economy Law Not So Green, Very Expensive

This Would Be You, Virginia

By Steve Haner

Mel Leonor reports in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch that Dominion Energy Virginia and the Green Energy Oligarchs have used the Virginia General Assembly to empty your pockets with a false promise.

According to Dominion’s own information, the highly touted Virginia Clean Energy Act (1) will not result in a total end to fossil fuel generation feeding your homes and businesses and (2) will increase bills by amounts similar to or in excess of the warnings in February from the State Corporation Commission. She writes:

Either way, the company said, customers in Virginia should expect to see their bills rise by as much as 3% a year until 2030, in large part due to infrastructure investments to build solar, offshore wind and battery capacity.

For the average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month, that could mean an increase of $45.92 to their monthly bills, from the current $116.18 per month to $168.58 per month.

The SCC’s estimate of the new legislation’s rate impact was that it would cost residential customers about $28 a month (1,000 kWh) within five years, so Dominion’s projection over ten years is right in line. The SCCs claims have been validated and the false promises of lower costs from advocates exposed.  Continue reading

Heads Exploding Over Green Energy Expose

by Stephen Haner

Producer Michael Moore’s  explosive new documentary on the renewable energy industry is indeed causing heads to explode.  You’d better take the 100 minutes to see Planet of the Humans before the forces of political correctness drive it off YouTube, where it was approaching 3 million views this morning. The first 30 minutes give you the gist, but if you get that far, you’ll be hooked.

Moore is the executive producer, but the writer and director is Jeff Gibbs, who has collaborated with Moore on other projects including Fahrenheit 9-11. Claiming a long history of environmental activism, it is Gibbs who chronicles and narrates his own disillusion with the biomass, wind and solar industries and the massive capitalist structure that promotes and benefits from them, with near zero environmental benefit.

True believers won’t watch it, of course, and will reply that 97 percent of critics find it lacking. Consensus is truth, you see. Unfortunately, Moore’s association is also scaring off potential conservative viewers. I have watched it through twice now, and my biggest complaint is it just ignores nuclear energy as a viable choice. There are other problems. But it reveals much about the links between the fossil fuel and renewable industries, and, delightfully, is driving environmentalists to fascist repressive tactics.

Could it possibly be true that the hated Koch Brothers and their companies are the world’s largest recipients of renewable energy financial incentives? The film focuses much of its anger on biomass and biofuels, tearing down virgin forests for power plants or destroying rain forest to plant sugar cane. Al Gore’s status as a greedy empty suit was no revelation, but I honestly didn’t know that solar panels are made by melting coal and quartz in coal furnaces. Watch it and share it while you can.

You will better understand the motives of some, not all but some, who are delighting in the destruction or our economy. Malthus Lives.

COVID Casualty: Unemployment Insurance System

The rise and fall of Virginia’s unemployment insurance tax, per worker, in response to the 2008-2009 recession. The COVID-19 recession, just starting, is likely to set new records for amount of tax and the length of time those elevated taxes are imposed. This chart includes the average (not maximum) base tax, an additional $16 fund builder tax, and a pool tax imposed on everybody who pays to compensate for employers who default. Source: Virginia Employment Commission.

By Steve Haner

This first appeared in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch and has also been distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  

America’s and Virginia’s unemployment insurance program – born of the Great Depression and the Social Security Act of 1935 – may be another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has mutated unemployment insurance into a form not financially sustainable.

Each state has its own unemployment insurance trust fund, financed by taxes on employers and steadily growing in good times. The last time the Virginia Employment Commission publicly reported on our fund’s status, almost a year ago, it projected a balance of $1.3 billion by the end of 2019.  Continue reading

No Fed Return Required, Other Questions Answered

by Steve Haner

There were various factual debates over my post on tax payments yesterday, and these updates are worth special attention. A morning conversation with a certified public accounting familiar with Virginia taxes brought to light the following:

  • If you fail to file a state return by May 1, the six-month extension truly is automatic. Your return is not considered “late” until November. The state doesn’t care. You don’t need to request the extension.
  • If by June 1 the state has received tax payments either equal to what you paid for 2018, or 90% of your eventual 2019 liability, there is no penalty assessed once your return is settled.
  • The issue of interest on late payments will be addressed at the Reconvened General Assembly session on April 22, and it can take action to relieve taxpayers of that concern during this crisis. Our debate may have spurred an announcement on that before the day is done.
  • You do not need to have filed a federal tax return to file your state return, should you choose to. If owed a refund by the state, while owing an additional payment to the feds, file the state return now and the federal return in July. It creates no problem for the state.
  • Virginia is just weeks away from the end of its fiscal year June 30 and is constitutionally barred from deficit spending. Even the General Assembly could not have authorized a delay in the payment deadline beyond June 30 without risking a major financial default. As I’ve been saying with regard to businesses and government, cash flow is crucial.

Despite Offered Delays, Pay Your Taxes On Time

By Steve Haner

The latest complaint against the Northam Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is failing to provide adequate state tax relief. The complaint comes from the Tax Foundation and surfaced in a news report in Wednesday’s Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch has now chimed in with an editorial.

Apparently most other states have matched the new (and temporary) federal income tax filing deadline of July 15 rather than April 15. Virginia has delayed the deadline for paying any taxes still owed for 2019 from May 1 to June 1. But the 2019 income tax returns are still due on May 1, and the common complaint is that since Virginia taxes are based on your federal adjusted gross income, you need to know your federal AGI figure to file.

“Virginia has done the least to help taxpayers with delayed filings or delayed payments than any other state,” said Jared Walczak, director of state tax policy with the Tax Foundation.

Walczak said although Virginia requires that state tax returns be filed by May 1, the payment deadline has been extended until June 1. But even with an extension on tax payments, Walczak said interest starts to accrue on the amount you owe.

“Virginia is the only state in the nation that is doing that,” said Walczak. “Everywhere else, there is at least some relief on both filing and payment deadlines.”

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New Northam Financial Directive Late, Clueless

By Steve Haner

When I’m wrong, I should rush to admit it. The concerns expressed by others on this blog that the Northam Administration was failing to recognize the financial aspects to the COVID-19 pandemic were valid. The person exhibiting wishful thinking was me, with my assumption they were already acting.

That’s because they just acted, with an executive order to state agencies to freeze hiring, tighten spending and otherwise batten down the fiscal hatches for a storm. “We can expect to enter a recession soon,” Chief of Staff Clark Mercer writes in a four-page memo quoted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.   

Wrong. The economy has been in recession for a month. A month. The concern now is a depression.

Mercer said the state expects “significantly less revenue” than the most pessimistic forecast Northam’s economic and revenue advisory councils considered last fall and reduced cash balances at the end of this fiscal year that will carry into the next two-year budget and require cuts in spending.

“Our intention is not to cut the budget in the short term, but decisions will depend on how much revenue comes in,” he said.

Wrong again. The state will be slashing the budget as never before, and the Governor should have started the process weeks ago. One can only hope, and it may be a forlorn one, that agency financial managers saw the clouds and acted on their own. If the Governor’s people are only now getting serious about the amendments to the budget due in seven days, shame.  Continue reading

Move 2020 Nomination Deadline To Late Summer

By Steve Haner

A week after the March 3 Democratic presidential primary I was sick, probably with a cold but I had to wonder. No fever developed and patent medicines got me through. But it could have been COVID-19 after checking in hundreds of voters in the Maple Street Firehouse.

There is no way I’m repeating that activity on June 9. Thank you, Governor Ralph Northam, for saving me from having to abandon the other nice folks who work that precinct. Even if we are on the infection down slope, holding a primary that day is a risk we don’t need to impose on those volunteers.

Republican officials exploded when the stay at home directive was advanced to June 10. A statement released by the Republican Party of Virginia whined:

“… the timeline seems all too convenient,” said RPV Chairman Jack Wilson. “We ask that Governor Northam show us the data that led to his decision. It is not our opinion that the Governor is purposefully engaging in voter suppression, but an explanation would help to mitigate any concerns.”

Did my statement mitigate your concerns, Jack? I bet thousands of poll workers feel the same way.

Let’s drop the debate over which elected official or cabinet agency is more hapless and focus on some truly clueless people – this state’s all but dead Republican Party. Yesterday the state party certified three candidates to run June 9 seeking the nomination against Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia. Don’t look at the story yet, can you name one of them? I cannot. And I would love to see somebody give Warner a race. People forget how close Ed Gillespie came to beating Mark-not-John six years ago.  Continue reading