Campaigning on Tax Increases

On the heels of Phil’s provocative post about the 2004 tax increase issue, Michael Shear of the Washington Post has his analysis of how it is being played by the Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore campaigns.

For Kaine:

Education is consistently the top issue on people’s minds in Virginia, polls suggest. Kaine’s aides think his support of the tax increases will translate in people’s mind to support for education. Kilgore’s opposition to the tax increases, they hope, will translate into a disdain for schools.

For Kilgore:

There has not been a concerted effort by anyone to stir up opposition to the tax increases since they took effect. If past is prologue, the talented Kilgore campaign machine could be very effective at doing so.

It’s a balanced piece, except for not mentioning Russ Potts. Sometimes, good copy is hard to find.

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  1. “There has not been a concerted effort by anyone to stir up opposition to the tax increases since they took effect. If past is prologue, the talented Kilgore campaign machine could be very effective at doing so.”

    What about the primary campaign run by VCAP? They had news story after news story after news story where the constant theme was:

    “Mark Warner is a liar. The biggest tax increase in history was not needed.”

    And we’ve heard it repeated over and over and over by every conceivable Republican candidate/campaign/media hack/org for the last year and a half.

    And guess what?

    75% approval rating. Nobody cares, as you’ve said before.

    I think the main issue here is that the GOP (thanks to Gilmore) has temporarily lost credibility in the state of Virginia. Bush may also have helped create this situation…

    On fiscal issues, the GOP doesn’t have credibility. A GOP majority in Congress has created huge deficits during relatively prosperous fiscal times.

    A GOP governor with a GOP majority in the legislature created a fiscal nightmare by repeatedly lying in order to make outlandish campaign promises (Gilmore 1999-2001).

    People are temporarily tired of it.

    Notice that I say temporarily. Don’t worry (Phil/et/al). In a couple of years, your message of tax cuts for all will resonate again. This is a red state. But for now, the well is poisoned. You won’t make hay with this issue. Why else do you think Kilgore is bringing up immigration? Taxes didn’t work.

  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    What tax did Jerry Kilgore offer to cut? He talks about the Commonwealth tinkering with property taxes, but what other tax cut has he actually proposed?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    The bottom line is spending. Kilgore may chastise the budget, but out of the other side of his mouth he says that the state needs millions of new funding poured into this this and this. In general, people that complain about taxes while never mentioning a single thing they want to cut are full of it: not conservatives but simply politicians. Heck, other Republicans (and by that I mean actual ones that are still in the party, not Russ) say that we need even more taxes to cover the investments the state needs. I’d say that in the end, the level chosen by Warner will be just right. It’s enough to cover some key things, but not enough that we can throw money at everything: we’ll still have to tighten belts on some things and rule out some things on the wish list.

  4. Once again, Bacond’s Rebellion writers gloss over the obvious:

    The VaPAF is quietly at the center of the gubernatorial race.

    All three candidates say they support the proposed Richmond arts center/white elephant. Wilder does not in its current form and leadership.

    So all three candidates support this meals tax increase for arts center evidently.
    Where are you guys on that?

  5. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    I’m agin it.

  6. Not Larry Sabato Avatar
    Not Larry Sabato

    Will has been against a lot recently. For example, he continues his assault on democracy by refusing to endorse my entry into the 2005 Governor’s debate.

    Will, this is America, I should be allowed to participate.


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Perhaps the people of Virginia would actually care about tax cuts and spending reductions if the GA would provide a budget that is understandable, with noted justifications of budget items, and one that is independently audited. Until that happens it is nearly impossible to know where state funds are actually being expended. This allows members of the GA and special interests to cry “we need more money!” anytime they want without any ability to actually assess that need is.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Like Mark Warner, Ronald Reagan “inherited” a budget deficit ($167 million) when inaugurated Governor of California in 1967. Like Warner, Ronald Reagan asked for a tax increase. However, he pledged that if and when there was a state surplus, he would return the money to the taxpayers, which he did in 1968 and on three other occasions. More than $5 billion was returned to the people while he was governor. Will Warner/Kaine/Kilgore/Potts do the same?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Paul is right, I think. Shear misses the boat on the tax issue.

    Kilgore is pinned in a very, very difficult corner. To energize his base and lend his candidacy some urgency, he has to find an issue that can resonate with Republicans and give him some juice with conservative-leaning white moderates.

    He’s tried taxes – he’s hit that repeatedly, and the RGA ran ads slamming Kaine on taxes. The result, as far as the polls are concerned is little movement at all and certainly none in Kilgore’s direction. He may try again – Shear’s article is odd in that it seems to assert that Kilgore is going to run tax ads, but doesn’t quote any source on it.

    The next step for Kilgore has been to keep up some pressure on taxes, but to move into the dangerous territory of immigration. Here there is fertile ground for winning votes, but it’s also easy to lose them. Most people believe that illegal immigrants don’t take jobs away from Americans – that they just take the jobs no one else wants anyway. Many voters are justifiably opposed to illegal immigration, but don’t see it as a major concern – meanwhile, Kaine is talking about a chief concern. Kilgore’s priorities are out of whack with the electorate’s priorities.

    We’ll see what happens, but it seems to me that Kilgore is cycling through issues looking for one where he can harness the anger of the Republican base, which is largely white and suburban/rural. He hasn’t found the right issue yet, not least of all because Virginian’s just aren’t very angry about anything but traffic right now.

    Jerry’s tried to harness that one, but his proposals lack credibility. No one believes that the general fund has a big bunch of money that can go to transportation without seriously compromising other priorities. No one but Russ Potts and newspaper editors wants to raise the gas tax, and as gas prices rise, that feeling is just going to intensify. Kaine’s plan hasn’t made anyone any more excited, but that’s not helping Kilgore’s plan gain ground.

    The debate will start to be dominated by television advertising at some point in September – and at that point Kilgore is going to have to make some choices about what his real message is going to be.

  10. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Anon: You say Kilgore tried taxes. He may fuss about tax increases, but what taxes did he propose cutting?

    Maybe his message didn’t resonate because he doesn’t offer particulars on tax cuts or spending cuts. He specifies new spending only.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    He has historically said that he’d like to cut the car tax, the estate tax, and repeal the 2004 budget deal – but you’re right that he hasn’t hammered away about a specific tax that he wants to cut. Kaine is on the record with proposals for how to cut the car tax and (I think) the estate tax too.

    Does that leave the 2004 budge deal for Kilgore? Will he just say that it was unneccsary, or will he say that he would repeal it?

    He could do something on giving surpluses back to taxpayers, but he has already said that he would put surplus money into lots of other things – most specifically his tax credit for parents who spend money on school supplies.

    The other problem he has with any tax revolt is the knife he’ll get in the back from the Republican senators who have already sniped at him over his transportation plan – Chichester and several others. If they say they oppose any Kilgore plan, his plan becomes moot because it just won’t happen.

  12. Good looking candidate wife Avatar
    Good looking candidate wife

    Include NLS in the debates!!!!

  13. TheModerate Avatar

    Anti-tax advocates make good points about the budget, wasteful spending and the need to cut spending in general. I agree that we need more budget cutters in Richmond.

    However, the anti-tax crowd fails to grasp that the 2004 tax increase was passed in order to provide long-term stability to the Commonwealth’s treasury. It was enacted so every other legislative session doesn’t become a knock down, drag out fight in the GA. In other words, it was an attempt at a long-term solution.

    This year’s governor’s race is a continuation of last year’s tax battle with transportation being the fulcrum. The candidate who can best fund transportation will likely be the one to win.

    Even after the 2004 tax increase we have bills to pay and we are still left with the transportation issue to address.

    Jerry wants regional referendums. Great. Where does one region start and another stop? What do you do if a major referendum on I-81 passes in one region, but fails in another?

    Kaine wants a constitutional amendment that will create a lockbox for transportation money. Sorry, ain’t going to happen and here’s why. The GA passed a constitutional amendment that places all lottery proceeds in a lockbox for education. Any member of the GA that was around when that was passed will tell you that it was a bad move because it is too restrictive. During lean times the money might be better spent on other things.

    Potts wants a gas tax. Hmmm, will it build roads and provide a long-term solution? If he can show that it will, watch out. Voters may be willing to pay more to fix the problem.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    The point of the lockbox is that taxes related to transportation, like gas taxes, go towards transportation projects. It’s not that it magically solves all funding issues: it serves instead to keep politicians who want to raise the gas tax honest. If you want to tax gas as a proxy for roads, then the money should actually GO towards roads instead of for General Fund pork.

    If you want to supplement transportation in other additional ways, that’s up to the GA to decide. But raiding the gas tax for pork projects (too restrictive on that new 100 million study of whether tobacco tastes great or is less filling!) is a no no and the public doesn’t trust the GA for precisely this reason. If more money is needed somewhere else than transportation, then raise it through a different tax that doesn’t penalize drivers in particular. The whole POINT is to be restrictive: to make taxes closer to use fees for the things they actually go to fund. Tying the hands of legislators is the half the point.

    That’s a lot more innovative in thinking than adding another layer of buerracracy to VDOT and calling it a day, or hiking the gas tax and then spending it on a property tax cap which will have to be made up some other way.

  15. Not Larry Sabato Avatar
    Not Larry Sabato

    Goooood Evening.

    *vlah vlah*

  16. What about all the hoo-hah in the conservative press concerning the Craddock win over Reese in Va. 67th? Grover Norquist said that Craddock’s win and the Dillard retirement proved people cared about the issue. I thought Craddock won because he got a good church turnout in an off-year low interest election. I’m also noticing that in other states some politicians are getting fed up with Norquist coming in and slamming them. So, will taxes be an issue in the local delegates races?

  17. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Are you guys out of your collective mind? Regerdless of your political persuasion or ideological bent, there are things that need to be done in Virginia, not the least because of the residue of 20 years of conservative(not to say either prudent or imprudent) fiscl policy.

    We ned to prioritize them and then raise the money to fund them, in the most equitable manner possible.

    No matter who wins, or what priorities they set, we have work to do. Let’s stop suporting candidate and start supporting issues.

    Higher taxes or lower taxes is not an issue as long as we get the necessary work accomplished.

  18. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Or, Ray, you could prioritize the work, price it and draw a line under what can be funded after we do the necessary tax cuts or draw a line under the present tax burden or draw a line under the increased tax burden.

    First, the pricing needs to be right. Little confidence there.

    Second, you have to make a priority. Less confidence either party can do that with a majority vote, let alone a consensus.

    Last, you get to draw that line which is a political act (classic definition: who gets what) of the first and necessary order.

  19. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    Oh, I have had just about enough! “TheModerate”, you know the one who justifies dishonesty, praises deceit, says, “[The] anti-tax crowd fails to grasp that the 2004 tax increase was passed in order to provide long-term stability to the Commonwealth’s treasury. It was enacted so not every other legislative session becomes a knock down, drag out fight in the GA. In other words, it was an attempt at a long-term solution.”

    First, it is a typical ploy by “leftist” to label folks with a negative nickname like “anti-tax” crowd. I doubt if there is really a single person posting that is actually “anti-tax”. Meaning we are against taxes, period.

    NO! We are against continuing increases to taxes that are not justified. Like its has been pointed out many times; how can you justified taking money out of ours pockets at a faster rate than we can put it into our pockets. It is absurd and irresponsible.

    Having said that, TheModerate is amiss saying the last tax increase was to provide some sort of long-term stability for the treasury. That is a joke statement. It really did not stabilize at all. Oh sure there was not a fight last session on taxes after the blood bath two sessions ago. However, another fight is already staged for the next session no matter who is in the Governor’s mansion.

  20. TheModerate Avatar


    See Ray Hyde’s post from 10:20.

    Also, I am curious, in your opinion, how are tax increases justified and when should they occur? Hold on; let me guess, via a referendum?

    Furthermore, if the last tax increase wasn’t for long-term stability, then what was it for?

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    Folks, bottom line… there is no political will to solve these problems. It’s proven we can’t trust the legislature to actually spend our money responsibly and on the real problems we face. In fact, even when they promise to spend new tax moneys specifically only on certain problems it’s proven that they eventually take the money and use it elsewhere on “pork”. The regional representation and desire for “pork” spending is too great and true problems never get resolved.

    I actually think a constitutional lock box on transportation funds is a good idea (and I’m a conservative), unfortunately it will take years to implement and we will be stuck in traffic until then.

    I was going to suggest using our heralded AAA bond rating to float some bonds to pay for roads that would then be paid off by tolls (like 267 in NOVA), but unfortunately I can’t even trust the political leadership to stick to a deal like that (again like 267 in NOVA).

    So, what I really think is the only way to bring any kind of fiscal sanity is to constitutionally limit the increased rate of spending and taxing at the State level, yes folks TABOR.

    Sorry, but short of that it is patently obvious that there is no way to get a majority of legislators in the GA on either side to really consider cutting spending.

  22. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    To themoderate; First, for the most part I agree with Ray Hyde 10:20 post. At least I agree that priorities need to be set. However, I would not say “raise” the money to fund these priorities. I would say allocate.

    I certainly would not blame 20 years of “conservative” policies for any of today’s problems. There is nothing wrong with being conservative with other peoples’ money. Today’s problems can be summed up, in my humble opinion, to simple politics.

    I have seen one big reason why government’s cost exceeds all inflation and personal income growth numbers. The increases come from all the multitude of Bills that are submitted at each GA session. What I mean by that is there are impact statements that are issued for Bills to determine the cost to the State. I feel that little attention is paid to the cost factor of each Bill. Oh, we hear about the few big ones each year but nothing about the hundreds of others.

    Why are so many Bills submitted? Mostly to gain political points back home to help get reelected.

    I cannot remember which Senator, but I was told that along time ago one Senator realized this and proposed a Bill that would have made it mandatory to submit a Bill you had to cut two older codes, which would fund the new Bill.

    It is always easier to raise taxes than cut. As I often hear, it is easier to do something and apologize later than first ask permission. So m a y b e we should take a closer look at referendums on tax increases. If you make politician ask FIRST, maybe we would have less need to raise taxes.

    Lastly, who is saying that the State were unstable before the last tax increase? It has already been proven that the two biggest reasons given to raise taxes were a sham. The triple AAA bond rating was more pride than anything else. The lost of the AAA rating, if it really did occur, would have only been temporary and would have had little impact on the total State budget. In addition, the “conservative” members of the GA were proven right and the economy growth more than exceeded what the tax increase brought in.

    So was the tax increase needed? NO. Back to Hyde’s comment, until you actually set priorities how can you say otherwise?

  23. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I’ve made the suggestion before.

    On the back of your tax form, make a place where taxpayers can fill in their sense of what their money should be spent on. My guess is that averaged over the entire population of taxpayers the result won’t look too different from what we have. We would then know for a fact wht people’s priorities are, until then, all we have to work with is political posturing and individual opinion as to what is best, with little power behind either one.

    One advantage of this plan is that participation can be required as part of the tax-paying process, unlike voting.

    Government administrators could be constrained not to deviate from the taxpayer supported desires by more than, say 15%. This would prevent gross dictatorship of currently popular opinions.

    Politicians could then shift from saying “My plan is best” without specyfing what the plan is. They would find it difficult to support a plan very different from one generated by the poll. On the other hand, if a politician has a better idea, and if he is supported by a large enough special interest group, he would be free to educate the public, advertize, and lobby for more public support of his position.

    JAB is right, you can draw the tax line anywhere you want, but not until you establish, somehow, priorities. The system we have now means that our priorities are set by whoever we elect (or his party, or his special interest supporters). My plan would mean that special interests would have to appeal to the people filling out the forms and providing the money, not to the people who just want to spend the money.

  24. Dave Burgess Avatar
    Dave Burgess

    I am with you Ray! I like your idea of forced participation. Voting has become our worst enemy. So long as money rules the airwaves and voters are so uninformed we cannot rely merely on voting into office budget reformers or voting out those who spend without remorse.

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