The Conservative Backlash Grows

Senior Republican legislators justified the funding provisions of the Comprehensive Transportation Funding and Reform act of 2007 on the grounds that they had to show voters that they were “doing something” to tackle traffic congestion. Otherwise, they said, they were at risk of losing several Northern Virginia seats in the General Assembly. After the uproar over Abuser Fees, challenges to the constitutionality of several aspects of the legislation and, now, an overt revolt of fiscal conservatives, Northern Virginia Republicans could still be at risk.

At a Tuesday press conference, a group of conservative activists chastised the GOP’s legislative leadership and vowed to withhold their support in the fall elections, even if it meant electing Democrats.

“This bill is a dramatic policy failure,” said John Taylor, president of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy at a press conference Tuesday. “We believe it is unconstitutional and demonstrated a political ineptness that is stunning in an election year. The Republican grass roots needs to ask their leadership, ‘What were you thinking?’ “

Taylor was joined by other foes of higher taxes, including Paul Jost, chairman of the Virginia Club for Growth. The Mainstream Media doesn’t normally pay much attention to the public policy prescriptions of Taylor and his friends, whom they typically write off as fringe radicals, but it’s big news any time anybody bashes the General Assembly’s GOP leadership, so the press attended the press conference in force.

Washington Post
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Norfolk Virginian-Pilot
Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star
Washington Times
Associated Press

J. Scott Leake, a spokesman for the Senate Republican leadership, defended the legislators. “It’s very easy to be against things,” he said. “It’s a lot harder to come up with your own solutions. Replacing who wields the gavel in the legislature is not going to build any more roads or ease any congestion.”

Fair point. But that’s no excuse for violating a fundamental precepts of fiscal conservatism: making taxes transparent to taxpayers. What I find particularly disturbing about the actions of GOP leaders this year was their willingness to raise revenues as long as they could avoid calling it a “statewide tax hike.” Fees are OK, penalties are OK, a welter of regional tax hikes are OK. In other words, the GOP leaders wanted to have their cake and eat it, too. They wanted to say that they managed to raise revenues without anyone really noticing.

I’m sorry, but that’s just a farce. Not only is it bad policy, it insults the voters — especially fiscal conservatives. Conservatives, the backbone of the Republican Party, are incredibly dispirited today. A decade of GOP control over the General Assembly has seen nothing but steady increases in spending and taxes. Former Republicans, like myself, are deserting the Party in droves. We would rather call ourselves independents than align ourselves with the Republican brand of Business As Usual, tax-and-spend politics. What separates Republicans from Democrats is not the principle of fiscal conservatism — both parties give lip service to that principle only to violate it. What separates them is their differing constituencies — the demographic and interest groups to whom they pay their boodle.

Sorry, but that’s not what we’re looking for in our elected leaders.

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14 responses to “The Conservative Backlash Grows”

  1. Groveton Avatar

    Dear Mr. Bacon:

    Welcome to the VIP (Virginia Independent Party). You are the second member of that party (I am the first). However, since you are smarter than I am and a much better communicator I have voted you in as our President. Please let me know what I can do to help you in your role as VIP President.

    I am also trying to determine whether a Delagate has to actually live in the district that he/she represents. I hope not since I plan on starting a write in campaign for Jim Bacon as Delagate from the 34th District.



    Actually, I am kind of serious. Jim – why don’t you put forth a consolidated set of positions on the various issues facing the Commonwealth? The conservative point of view needs a spokesman – why not you?

    And – have the taxes in Virginia ever been transparent to the taxpayer? I know they are more opaque now than ever but have they ever been transparent?

  2. The GOP has been ruined by the preoccupation with meaningless religious issues. The coalition between fiscal and social conservatives was a match made in hell.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Even a fiscal conservative ought to be willing to spend, provided that the ROI is there. It’s the ROI that provides the higher cash flow and lower tax rates for the future.

    Fiscal conservatives have made the mistake of thinking that label means no new spending, when it ought to mean calculate your ROI conservatively, and then spend.


  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Gee, Groveton, Gee, thanks. I’ve thought about running for office, but I’ve concluded that I’m constitutionally incapable of doing what it takes. For one, I enjoy my time with my family too much. For another, I’m incapable of dissimulation and prevarication. For another, I’d piss too many people off. But if *you* would like to launch an independent party, I’d be delighted to lend my assistance.

  5. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Jim B. is right, his termperment is not suited to holding public office until after there is a Fundamental Change in governance structure. Few you could trust, as you have suggested, are suited for that role.

    Now your idea of an independent party with Jim playing a key role… that is a great idea. Count me in.


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    The irony of this is just too powerful, since Jost and Taylor and Bacon et. al. were the very people Howell and Griffith were trying to appease with this insane transportation bill. The whole game plan was to avoid a direct gas tax, putting the full sales tax of five percent on cars, etc.

    Jost’s disdain was predictable. The level of ego and arrogance was a bit surprising (and revealing.)

    I thought from the beginning that the straight-up, transportation user-fee approach was more honest and would be better received by the voters. Even the Times Dispatch editorialists sees the gas tax as a better alternative. Even them.

    The problem is that no taxes, no new spending is not a principle. It’s a slogan. The idea of weighing costs and benefits makes more sense, and would be a radical enough departure from the status quo. The analysis of the early childhood plan is a good example, and the proposal fails the test. A promise to never ever raise taxes, to hold spending to an artificial goal, simply sets up an impossible goal. Then where there is a good opportunity to change the tax code, raise some and lower others, even that becomes politically impossible, even if revenue neutral.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Hoobie, your comment is an expression of complete ignorance. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have done everything they can to avoid “meaningless religious” issues for years (see Russ Potts). Unfortunately for them, the voters who sent them to Richmond actually care about “meaningless religious” issues. The leadership thought if they reached out to “moderates” who don’t mind increases in taxes, etc., that Republican won’t need those nasty little voters who care about “meaningless religious” issues.

    One wonders if they wich they had those voters now.

    Republicans are going to lose their majority becuase they abandoned ALL of their principles, not just the fiscal ones.

  8. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis


    A minor correction to your original post. Delegates Marshall and Frederick were not present at yesterday’s Press Conference. Although Del. Marshall is one of the plaintiffs brought against the state challenging the many patently unconstitutional provisions of HB 3202.

  9. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis


    One other point regarding your comment that the GOP leadership passed HB 3202 because “…they had to show voters that they were “doing something” to tackle traffic congestion.”

    That’s precisely the problem with this bill. HB 3202 does a lot of things but it does very little about tackling congestion.

    If they were serious about tackling congestion, they would immediately sign a bunch of private/public partnerships to build new road capacity that can be opened within the next 18 to 24 months. The state wouldn’t have to put out any money or raise fees. The private partners would collect tolls to repay any bonds that were issued and to make a profit on their investment.

    This approach would tackle congestion right away, as private partners would only be interested on building new road capacity where there would be a demand for toll access–i.e., no coalfield expressways…

    This is a market based solution that gets the government out of the way. Under the provisions of HB 3202–assuming the many legal challenges leave it intact–it’s going to take close to a decade before we see any new road capacity.

    In the meantime, we’re saddled with new layers of unaccounted and unelected governments, a bunch of bad fees and unnecessary taxes, all in the name of doing something about congestion.

    The only motivation behind the GOP leadership is to give the impression of some action, while taking care of their major donors, like the developers and the engineering firms that get awarded VDOT contracts to build roads.

    Let’s face it, HB 3202 is the product of the good ole boy system hard at work…

  10. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis


    We don’t need Jim to go on the campaign trail. We can always start a write-in campaign for James Bacon for Delegate or State Senate… ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Phil, Thanks for the heads up about the press conference — I’ve made the correction on the original post.

    And, yes, we definitely agree — in the abstract — about the preferability of public-private partnerships as a tool for financing road expansion. Private players won’t invest the bucks unless they’re darn sure the market demand is there. If you have to “prime the pump” with public funds, as appears to be the case in Hampton Roads, you really have to wonder if the projects are justified.

    But I would say this: Private investment in mega-projects is only part of the solution. We have to find a way to make the rest of the transportation system work. How do we cope with congestion in areas that are far removed from where the public-private partnerships can be put into place? Apply your creative thinking to that challenge.

    As for your last point ๐Ÿ˜‰ — if nominated, I will not run; if elected I will not serve!

  12. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    Given the results of those GOP/RINOs that did “serve”, I think the state is better off with guys like Jim that just stay home.

    HB 3202 in Tidewater/Hampton Roads is all about creating all-appointed regional government controlled by the local business lobby – it has almost nothing to do with reducing traffic congestion.

    Classic bait & switch.

  13. Groveton Avatar

    Talk is cheap and results are dear.

    Mr Bacon:

    I understand your reluctance to run as a a candidate in the VIP (Virginia Independent Party).

    Let me offer a challenge.

    I will personally underwrite $25,000 for the foundation of the VIP. Mr.. Bacon – you know who I am and I think you know that I can make good on this committment.

    However, my money comes with strings attached. Namely:

    1. Jim Bacon must run the VIP.

    2, The goal of the VIP is not to endorse any candidate but to certify candidates as “worthy for consideration”.

    3. In order to be to cerified as “worthy for consideration” a candidate must publicly (and in writing) answer a set of questions established by the VIP regarding the future of Virginia

    4. The VIP will not endorse candidates. It will simply certify candidates as “worthy for consideration”. The candidate may answer the key questions in any detailed and meaningful manner they want. The VIP will not consider the content of their answers in the decision to certify a candidate as “worthy for consideration”. It will only decide whether the candidate has expressly disclosed their views on issues considered critical by the VIP.

    5. My $25,000 must be matched by at least another $25,000 from other legal residents and taxpayers from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    6. Any actions taken must be legal under federal, state and local laws – including the establishment of the VIP.

    7. Nobody may tell my wife of this until all conditions are met and my $25,000 check is cashed. ๐Ÿ™‚ She’ll understand – eventually.

    8. All results of the VIP’s efforts will be publicly displayed on an well designed and easy to access web site. This web site will require no subscription fees nor will it require the disclosure of personal information from those who want to comment on the web site.

    9. Mr. Bacon’s activities will be regulated by a board of directors who are elected based on their level of contribution to the VIP with the specific rejoinder that no contributor may constitute a majority vote.

    10. Mr Bacon may request (and be paid) a small stipend from the VIP for his work on this effort.

    11. The first effort of the VIP will be to develop a reasonably detailed charter. If this task cannot be completed to the staisfaction of the board of directors, the VIP will be disbanded and remaining assets will be redistributed to contributors in proportion to their contributions (after deduction of reasonable – and small – expenses).

    12. Groveton seeks no financial gain from this effort and will not make any claims for renumeration for any work expended in regard to the VIP.

    I am quite serious.

    I think the time for BS is over.

    Please let me know what you think.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Have you guys researched Ron Paul’s Candidacy?

    Please do.

    This guy is honest, consistent and I think he has the values you are looking for.

    He does have lots of local support

    checkout: and enter your zip code.

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