Category Archives: Budgets

Restoring Sales Tax Holiday is Not Tax Relief

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s Democratic legislators are convinced that citizens are happy to pay taxes for state services and will rebel at the polls if taxes are cut when there are “unmet vital needs.”  That is why they have so far resisted any and all proposals from Governor Glenn Youngkin and Republican legislators to split the state’s fat cash surplus between tax relief and more spending.

So, why are those same Democrats not applauding the 2023 General Assembly’s failure to extend the state’s previous pre-school sales tax holiday? Shouldn’t the voters be happy to pay more for school supplies and clothes since the schools need the money? Instead they are joining the scramble to reinstate that tax break, open to all taxpayers, rich and poor.

The good news is the Assembly’s incompetence (or was it an accident?) in letting the sales tax holiday lapse is providing another prod to keep Democrats at the table for tax policy discussions. Frankly, from a tax policy purist point of view, these tax holidays are not good policy, but they are wildly popular.

That is because the sales and use tax is one people can see at the checkout counter. If you are saving $6-$7 on a Target run or Amazon bill, you notice. The other tax cuts under discussion – a higher standard deduction, a tweak to the income level that triggers the top income tax rate – only come up at tax-filing time, and if you use a computer program or outside accountant to file, you may never notice.

The bad news is that now the General Assembly can come together and fix this oversight (if it was an oversight) and claim a victory for taxpayers. They will claim a bipartisan victory over something that leaves those taxpayers exactly where they were a year ago, no better off at all. From the beginning, the claim that nobody had put the sales tax holiday on the Assembly’s radar during the session has lacked credibility. If so, retailers need new lobbyists. Continue reading

Senators Cry “Voodoo Estimating” In Tax Fight

By Steve Haner

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

Not only are the leading Virginia Senate budget negotiators adamantly opposed to providing Virginians with additional tax relief in this election year, but they are now hinting at partial roll back of one of the major individual tax reforms approved just last year.

When the 2022 General Assembly approved a major increase in the standard deduction used by most Virginia taxpayers, it applied a condition — that the underlying General Fund revenue had to continue to grow at least 5% in both fiscal years 2022 and 2023. If it did not, the standard deduction for that year would be reduced again. The revenue growth would be adjusted for the tax cuts, so the target was 5% growth before the revenue reductions those caused.

Meeting that trigger target for FY 2022 was easy in that year’s overheated economy. Last week Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration certified that the second target was also met, meaning the full standard deduction also applies for this tax year. The goal was barely met, with growth of 5.1%, leading Democrats to accuse the Department of Taxation of “voodoo estimating.”

The accusation against the usually-trusted tax staff was reported in a Richmond Times-Dispatch article. It failed to address whether the Democrats plan to act on their suspicions, but why complain otherwise? If they fight to certify the target was missed, and win, the standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly will drop by $1,000 and their tax bill will rise $58. A key Democrat dismissed it as “less than $30,” but that is for an individual. Continue reading

Youngkin Budget Leadership Faulted

David Toscano

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

This blog gives ample exposure to conservative bloggers Kerry Dougherty and Shaun Kenney, but not to bloggers with other perspectives.

David Toscano of Charlottesville, former Democratic floor leader in the House of Delegates and the author of a book on recent Virginia politics, regularly comments on Virginia politics, which is available to anyone who subscribes (free) to his e-mail list.

Here is his latest in which he takes Governor Glenn Youngkin to task for a lack of leadership on Virginia’s budget.  He contrasts Youngkin’s passive approach to the active approach of Mark Warner in somewhat similar circumstances.  Regardless of what one thinks of Toscano’s views on various policy issues that he lists in the commentary, it is hard to argue against the proposition that Youngkin has been absent in the budget negotiations.

More Money for an “Indecipherable” K-12 Funding Formula?

by James A. Bacon

Virginia public schools receive less funding from the state than the 50-state national average, less than the Mid-Atlantic regional average, and less than three of the five bordering states, says a new report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC). The state needs to radically update its methodology for calculating Standards of Quality (SOQ), a measure of staff and other inputs that sets the bar for state funding. Adopting all of JLARC’s recommendations would cost taxpayers $1 billion in near-term funding and more than $2.5 billion longer-term.

Democrats and media allies immediately used the JLARC report to claim that Virginia schools are “underfunded.” As Axios Richmond puts it: “Virginia is cheaping out on public school funding compared to most other states.” Then there was this from House Minority Leader Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth: Virginia’s GOP “would rather fund corporate giveaways” than students’ education.

Republicans pushed back. Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera and Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons noted that the report omitted the last two fiscal years, in which Virginia has funneled an additional $3.2 billion in state aid to public schools. More to the point, they contend, without major reforms such as raising educational standards and improving reading competency in elementary schools, “investments in K-12 funding likely will not translate into improved student outcomes.” Continue reading

Governor, GOP Not Selling Their Tax Reforms

Time’s A-Wasting.

by Steve Haner

The following paragraph was written five months ago. It is reproduced now with some emphasis added.

The 2023 Virginia General Assembly tax debate is just another revival of an old political show. Last year it ended well for new Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) and for those hoping to pay less in state taxes.  This year is not guaranteed to see the same outcome, not unless there is a late push to engage public attention as the House and Senate seek compromise.

Continue reading

VRS “Diet COLA” Squeezes Pensions Second Time

by Steve Haner

Virginia’s “Diet COLA” approach to calculating annual inflation increases to Virginia Retirement System pensions has constrained the increases once again.  Beneficiaries will see a benefit increase of 5% effective July 1, up from the 3.85% increase they received a year ago.

Both are below what they would have been if the increase had simply matched the full annual change in the consumer price index. The CPI-U measure of inflation for the calendar year 2021 was 4.7% and for 2022 was 8.0%.  The compounded rise was 13%.  But instead of rising those amounts, the VRS retirement benefits will have risen less than 10% over two years.  (Those figures have been corrected since the initial posting.)   Continue reading

Without Full $1B Tax Cut, Let July 1 Deadline Pass

by Steve Haner

Because the federal government cannot operate without constantly borrowing money, members of Congress in both parties recently held their noses and voted for a compromise budget and borrowing deal. That need not and should not happen now in Virginia.

There is no similar pressure in Virginia, even though the June 30 end of the state fiscal year approaches. Virginia has a viable, fully balanced budget that runs through June 30, 2024. The stalemate underway involves only unadopted second-year amendments.

Governor Glenn Youngkin and the House of Delegates should insist that any amendments to that new fiscal year budget include every dollar of tax relief they approved earlier this year. None of the spending increases approved by either the House or the Virginia Senate should be included unless the full amount of tax relief accompanies them.

If the July deadline passes with no action, with no agreement to couple tax cuts with spending increases, Virginia’s Republican legislators will have accomplished what their colleagues in Washington failed to do (and in fairness couldn’t do). They will have stood firm until the taxpayers received the same level of consideration as those who consume those taxes.

The real decision deadline is Election Day in November. Continuing the stalemate would give the voters a clear choice between the House vision of tax relief coupled with reasonable spending growth, or the Senate vision of mainly higher spending and zero tax relief. Continue reading

UVa Board Trims Next-Year Tuition by 0.7%. Big Whoop.

by James A. Bacon

Responding to a Youngkin administration request for Virginia’s public colleges and universities to curb tuition increases, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors voted this morning to reduce a scheduled 3.7% tuition hike next year to 3.0%.

As explained by Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis, the shaving of $5.5 million from the budget represents a “good faith” effort to comply with the administration’s request. But in response to a question, she acknowledged that it only “partially” complied.

“This is very late in the budgetary cycle,” which closes June 30, said former Rector and the board’s financial guru James Murray. “We’re supposed to have a budget number in March. It’s very difficult in this point the year to say, ‘Go find millions of dollars.'” He described the partial rollback as “a concession to political reality.”

In other business, the Board also approved a $5.4 billion operating budget for Fiscal 2023-24, which begins July 1. The budget encompasses the academic divisions of the University of Virginia main campus, the campus in Wise, and the UVa Health System. The UVa main campus operating budget amounts to nearly $2.3 billion.

To an outside observer, the proceedings were remarkable — for the lack of oversight. Board input into what is arguably the most important vote of the year was inconsequential. Aside from praise for the UVa financial staff and a few requests for clarifications, board members had little to say. They offered no substantive questions. They provided zero pushback. Continue reading

Major Actions to Reduce Corporate Overhead Offer Lessons and Opportunities to Virginia Government

Courtesy Wall Street Journal

by James C. Sherlock

The chart above shows that management and administrative overhead growth has been a trend not limited to government. The difference is that corporations are making quick and decisive strides in reversing the trend.

It is axiomatic that government should minimize overhead to maximize efficiency in delivery of services. And to lower its costs.

Efficiencies need to be found:

  • to maximize value for citizens;
  • to speed decision-making;
  • to minimize administrative consumption of the time and attention of front line workers; and
  • to restore freedom of speech suppressed by government bureaucracies assembled for that purpose.

All senior government managers would sign up for those goals — as theory. But execution is hard. Internal pressures against change are seldom exceeded by external ones that demand it.

An excellent report in the Wall Street Journal makes an observation that they may wish to consult for inspiration.

Companies are rethinking the value of many white-collar roles, in what some experts anticipate will be a permanent shift in labor demand that will disrupt the work life of millions of Americans whose jobs will be lost, diminished or revamped partly through the use of artificial intelligence.

‘We may be at the peak of the need for knowledge workers,’ said Atif Rafiq, a former chief digital officer at McDonald’s and Volvo. ‘We just need fewer people to do the same thing.’

Continue reading

As U.S. Teeters On the Brink of Recession, Virginia Beach Hikes Taxes

Clouds gather over Va Beach. (Bob Rayner)

by Kerry Dougherty

Do you mind if I’m brutally honest for a minute? Good. Because there’s no stopping me today.

Any member of the Virginia Beach City Council majority who voted Tuesday to approve an obscene $2.5 billion budget as the country teeters on the edge of a recession is a liar if they try to tell you they didn’t raise taxes.

I mean it. Join me in calling them LIARS.

While it’s true these politicians left the tax RATE alone, assessments jumped an average of 9%, with some of us seeing much sharper increases.

That means almost every homeowner in Virginia Beach just got a big fat tax hike. Combine that with an inflation rate of about 5%and the average working family trying to stay above water in the resort city is drowning.
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RVA 5×5: Behind in the Count

by Jon Baliles

Baseball season is in full swing and I have already been to three games to celebrate spring, sport, and sun. And because this is Richmond, I sometimes wonder how much longer I will be able to repeat this ritual in Aprils in the future. This week, the city announced it had reached final terms with developer RVA Diamond Partners to build a new stadium and the massive Diamond District project. But the news was something of a mixed bag for a variety of reasons.

Baseball is all about timing. When the pitcher starts his motion, when the batter cocks and decides whether to swing or not, and whether you can make contact. But after a few days of looking at the deal and reading about it, I realized something about the timing of it is off. This post is not a deep dive into the financials of the deal (that will come soon but not today).
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Tuition Showdown May Be Approaching

Christopher Newport University campus

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Virginia colleges and universities are saying that they will have to raise tuition for the next school year unless the General Assembly gives them more money.

This is going to be fascinating to watch. Governor Youngkin has been able to get appointments to the boards of visitors, but not yet enough to constitute a majority for most. Most boards have three or four members whose terms expire June 30 of this year. With those appointments, some of the boards would have a majority of Youngkin appointees, but not all of them. Another factor is whether the current boards will wait for Youngkin to replace the members with expiring terms before taking action. After all, Democrats in the General Assembly have made it clear that there will be no action on any amendments to the budget until after the primaries in late June. The Virginia Tech board, for example, has scheduled a virtual meeting on April 21 to vote on tuition hikes (no public comment will be accepted). In any event, whenever the boards decide on tuition for next fall, it will be interesting to see how the Youngkin appointees vote. Continue reading

Dionysian Rites at a Spotsylvania County School Board Meeting

Dionysos, god of the theater and of the grape harvest

by James C. Sherlock

The FY 2023 budget for Spotsylvania County was $341,355,792.

In increasing the 2022 budget, the Supervisors transferred an additional $5.8 million to schools to “Address the Commitment to Educational Opportunities.”

That brought the total transfer to schools to $138,081,416 including that $5.8 million (4.4%) increase.

It was pointed out offhandedly in that FY 2023 budget document that $5.65 million equated “to a little more than three pennies on the real estate tax rate.”

Furthermore:

Most recently in FY 2021, the Schools were allocated ARPA funding in the amount of $22.68 million which Schools’ staff expects to be spent over three fiscal years (FY 2022, FY 2023, and FY 2024) to enhance the learning environment, enhance instructional planning, and enhance learning and growth.

But never mind.

Last night, in what Fox5 described as a “chaotic and disruptive” school board meeting, teeth were reportedly gnashed and garments rent over a potential, not yet an actual, reduction of $5.2 million in state funding for Spotsylvania County schools in FY 2024.

There were lots of interruptions and disagreement between the audience and school board members.

The festival at the school board meeting had an ancient Greek tone to it. Continue reading

Langley Looks to the Moon

by Robin Beres

While mainstream media may be transfixed by the gutter politics going on in New York, exciting, uplifting events are happening in other parts of the nation — including in our very own little city of Hampton.

Located on Hampton’s Langley Air Force Base just off the Chesapeake Bay, the Langley Research Center is NASA’s oldest field center. Established in 1917, the 764-acre facility consists of nearly 200 separate facilities and employs around 3,400 civil servants and contractors.

In the early 1960s Langley was a top contender to be named NASA’s Mission Control Center for manned space flights. But because the Hampton facility was so close to Washington, and Hampton Roads was already home to both military and civilian aerospace and aviation communities, NASA selected Johnson Space Center in Houston over Langley.

Although missing out on the Manned Spacecraft Center, Langley has nonetheless continued to play a vital role in the research and training that has made every space mission from Gemini I to Artemis successful. The historic research facility has had countless scientific breakthroughs and historic firsts. The first crews of astronauts were trained there. Langley’s Rendezvous and Docking Simulator trained both Gemini and Apollo astronauts. It is where the Apollo Lunar Module was tested.

Scientists at the center were instrumental in the development of supersonic flight. Researchers there created the world’s first transonic wind tunnel and developed today’s international standard for grooved airport runways. And, if you saw the fabulous — and true — movie, Hidden Figures, you know that those incredible women worked at Langley.

Today, Langley is very much involved in NASA’s plans to put humans on the moon — and eventually on Mars. The space agency’s Moon to Mars program is no longer just a dream or a science fiction story in Popular Mechanics. The Artemis space program is moving rapidly forward on several goals which include putting a base on the moon and eventually landing humans on Mars.
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Crime in Virginia — the Statistics of Race and their Causes

by James C. Sherlock

Crime, especially violent crime, is a constant topic in private conversations and in public politics, and thus here on Bacon’s Rebellion.

Comments on BR crime-related articles turn quickly to race, often without basis in fact.

I will offer below the actual crime statistics by race from 2021, the latest available year, in an attempt to cure that.

Then I will write about the causes.

I will almost certainly be called a racist. Continue reading