Here, Take My Lint

Emotions were flaring in Hampton Roads yesterday in advance of today’s meeting of the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority, which is expected to approve an estimated $175 million in regional taxes to fund long lobbied-for transportation projects. It seems that some citizens are tired of getting taxed.

During a three-hour hearing at the Virginia Beach Civic Center, reports the Daily Press, business interests defended the tax increases. Rob Goodwin, president of Virginia Beach Vision, a group of civic and business leaders, argued that traffic delays are raising the costs of doing business in the region, which increases the prices of all goods and services.”We need to be able to move in, out and about the community,” Goodwin said. “You’re paying for these delays one way or the other.”

The Road Gang contended that traffic bottlenecks would hamper emergency evacuations of Hampton Roads in the event of hurricanes, make the ports less competitive, and routinely slow the response times of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars.

But those arguments didn’t carry much weight with ordinary citizen George Donley: “I don’t have any more to give you. I’m at wit’s end. I’ve got lint left. I’ll give you that.”

Suffolk resident Roger Leonard spoke a profound truth when urging the Authority to turn the plan back to the General Assembly. He asked business leaders if they would be so supportive if the package included a commercial real estate tax or a levy on shipping containers. “That’s not happening,” Leonard said, “because they have better lawyers and lobbyists than the rest of us.”

Here’s the way I’m reading the situation: Hampton Roads politicians used citizen frustration with traffic congestion to mobilize support for creation of the HRTA and the increase in taxes. But the lawyers, lobbyists and their political buddies will have disproportionate influence over how those monies are spent. Go back and read our blog post, “Millions for Transportation, Pennies for Congestion Relief,” where we cited the arguments of Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Several of the mega-projects on the drawing boards are geared to economic development, he said, and will do as much to promote congestion as to relieve it.

Here’s the Suffolk News Herald coverage. And the Virginian Pilot’s.

Addendum: Here, from the Pilot, is the dog’s breakfast of “revenue enhancements” through which the citizenry will pay for improvements advocated by the business community:

  • $10 increase in the annual vehicle registration fee, raising it to $49.5 for cars. Would raise $13.3 million annually by 2009.
  • A new titling fee equal to 1 percent of a vehicle’s value would be charged when the ownership changes. Would raise $41.2 million.
  • $10 increase in the annual vehicle safety inspection fee, raising it to $26. Would raise $12.3 million.
  • 5 percent tax on automotive repair labor bills. Would raise $18.9 million.
  • An increase in grantor’s tax from 10 cents per $100 of a sold house’s value to 50 cents per $100. Would raise $49.1 million.
  • 2 percent sales tax on motor fuel. Would raise $30.2 million.
  • 2 percent tax on vehicle rentals. Would raise $3.5 million

As Fredric Bastiat said, “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

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    3 responses to “Here, Take My Lint”

    1. Groveton Avatar

      Interesting discussions down in Tidewater.

      Much of the debate seems to boil down to whether the state legislature can be asked to do its job or not. If they can be trusted to do their jobs then maybe the transportation bill should be returned to them with instructions to do their job. If they can’t do their job maybe letting the unelected regional authority do the job for them is the only practical alternative.

      In my opinion, the General Assembly cannot be trusted to do its job.

      And the news gets worse.

      My Delagate District (the 34th) was run by Vince Callahan for decades and decades. Earlier this year he decided to retire. As far as I am concerned he was absolutely, totally and completely part of the problem. We wouldn’t be in the crisis we are today if people like Vince Callahan had done their jobs. I recognize his public service but I think he made the right decision to retire (albiet decades too late).

      So, we have two new fresh faces running for delagate this year – Margi Vanderhye (D) and Dave Hunt (R).

      One would hope that (unencumbered with failures of the past) the two of them would be bringing new thinking and new ideas to the race.

      Sadly, they are not.

      Here are the links to the closest things to “issue statements” they make on their campaign web sites:

      I’ve also read their very limited statements in the press and on blogs (including Ms. Vanderhye’s contribution to BaconsRebellion).

      I listened to every word of each primary debate between Ms. Vanderhye and her Democratic opponent – Richard Sullivan.

      I have read all the endorsements of these candidates.

      They are saying virtually nothing about the issues.

      More intelligent and concrete discussion about Virginia’s issues is posted on BaconsRebellion every day than has been discussed or debated by the candidates in the entire 8 months of this Delagate race.

      And – for you Main Stream Conservatives (MSCs) – more bad news. Of the two lackluster candidates Ms. Vanderhye is clearly more willing to articulate her few opinions more clearly than Mr. Hunt. Mr. Hunt’s site still talks about his two Democratic opponents –

      “Unfortunately, his opponents who are fighting a primary election battle against one another do not support this law for purely partisan reasons.”.

      The Democratic primary was held June 12.

      However, he sure has a complete list of endorsements with a nice phtograph of each endorser:

      I guess pictures are more important than positions and endorsements are more important than ideas.

      Shame, shame, shame.

      To the good people of Northern Virginia and Tidewater:

      It’s time to give up on the General Assembly.

      The regional boards are flawed but at least they try.

      To the people of the 34th:

      It’s time to give up on the Republican Party.

      Margi Vanderhye’s positions are sometimes flawed but at least she tries (somewhat).

    2. Reid Greenmun Avatar
      Reid Greenmun

      I spoke at last night’s “public hearing”. There is so much to share I hardly know where to begin.

      Now, with the hindsight of this morning’s 8 to 4 vote to adopt all the new regional taxes and new regional fees – combined with the new variable priced tolls that will soon pop up everywhere, living in Tidewater becomes much less attractive.

      I have been successful working with Del. John Welch to have improvemnets made to the operation of the new regional taxing authority. In this regard, I have had a “representative” on the HRTA.

      Clearly the plan that HB 3202 brings to my region is seriously flawed and fails to provide any meaningful solutions to reduce traffic congestion.

      The “package” of highways and bridge-tunnels is simply the Hampton Roads Partnership (a huge, taxpayer-subsidized business lobby) buying the “investments” they desire – to promote their self-serving business interests – and to stick the LOCALS with the tab.

      So .. here we are – BILLIONS in new taxes and fees – and no real traffic congestion relief in sight.

      Buy hey, we get this nifty new layer of all-appointed regional government we can talk at – while they play with their blackberries and dream of the Billions in contracts they can know buy campaign “contibutions” with …

      Its good to be King!

    3. Darel99 Avatar

      Very important information:

      If the city is seeking higher taxes then challenge them with facts!

      Here is why I mean.

      Every city or town has to accounting methods:

      The annual budget which is what they talk about

      And a comprehensive finical review

      The annual comprehensive finical review will literally shows tons of cash on hand

      Please go to your city comprehensive office and demand the annual documents and fight city hall.

      They will not and I repeat not want the public get wind of this contrast. In short the budget is a fraud and

      A method to suggest higher taxes when in fact every city I have ever researched has tons of cash on hand.

      Don’t accept the lie

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