I said it in 2017, and I say it today: end the tax on groceries and help working families https://t.co/60tE4sJE2c
— Governor Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) December 14, 2021
by Kerry Dougherty
Is this guy for real?
Does Lame Duck Ralph Northam honestly believe that by Tweeting about the odious grocery tax with just 32 days left in his term he can somehow claim this populist issue for his own?
Virginians can be thick sometimes — heck, they voted for Northam in 2017 — but they aren’t stupid.
Northam had four years to scrap the regressive grocery tax that squeezes the poor more than the rich. Four years to convince his fellow Democrats to do away with a tax on every loaf of bread sold in the commonwealth. Four years to offer relief to every family in Virginia.
But Northam’s pals in Richmond were too busy springing murderers from prison and passing silly bills about balloon releases to care about the tax on food.
Let’s be honest. Hard-working, law-abiding Virginians were never a top priority for the far-left crowd in Richmond. Instead the Dems fretted incessantly about criminals. Their punishments were too harsh. Their prison terms too long. Their bail too high. They needed to get on the voter rolls.
The majority in Richmond viewed the police with suspicion while they did the bidding of their benefactors: trade unions, abortion enthusiasts, gun control advocates and environmental extremists.
For four years Virginia’s power-drunk Democrats — who believed Virginia would be blue forever — forgot all about ordinary people. They danced with teachers unions and ignored parents. And they watched with delight as the commonwealth’s coffers overflowed, in part by over-taxing the populace and collecting a levy on almost every morsel Virginians consumed.
That is why they were shellacked in November and why the mid-term elections promise a decimation for the Democrats around the country.
Back to Northam’s sudden fondness for tax reform.
While it’s true that in 2017 he muttered something about the grocery tax, it was a watered-down version of what Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin promises. While Youngkin wants to scrap the grocery tax entirely, sparing all Virginians the indignity of paying a tribute to the government every time they buy a quart of milk, Northam vaguely indicated that he wanted to end it for the poor, without giving a specific income limit.
As best we can tell, Northam mentioned the grocery tax a couple of times during his campaign. He never acted on it, nor pressured the General Assembly to terminate the tax.
Suddenly, with a month left in his term, Northam included it in his hasty proposal for a two-year budget.
Does Northam think he can piggyback on Youngkin’s success this way?
Fact is, when Democrats say they want to “help” minorities and the poor, they focus on criminals, as if all underprivileged people are lawbreakers.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have a more expansive understanding of what it means to be poor. They know that the poor want safe neighborhoods every bit as much as the affluent. The underprivileged want good schools — that are open and in-person — as much as the middle class. And with soaring inflation, folks on tight budgets want to be able to put food on the table without paying the state for the privilege.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a sales tax on food is especially cruel to society’s most disadvantaged.
Sales taxes worsen income and racial inequalities. Low-income people pay much more of their income in sales taxes than higher-income people do because they must spend a very large share of their income to meet basic needs. The lowest-income fifth of families … pay almost eight times more as a share of their incomes in sales taxes than the top 1 percent of families (those making more than $553,200), on average: 7.1 percent versus 0.9 percent. The revenue systems in states that rely too heavily on sales taxes thereby create additional barriers for lower-income residents, making it harder for them, for example, to afford daily expenses like gas for their cars or to rent in neighborhoods with more opportunities — which, in turn, may make it more difficult for them to work their way into the middle class.
Sales taxes on groceries have an especially harmful impact on income and racial inequities since low-income families tend to spend a larger share of their income on groceries.
Searching the General Assembly website I can’t find a single bill that was introduced in the past four years to abolish the grocery tax. Maybe I missed it. If this had been a Northam priority a bill ending the tax would have been proposed, passed and signed.
Unlike Northam, Youngkin campaigned hard on scrapping the grocery tax.
Should Youngkin go dark on the grocery tax — and I’m betting he won’t — and wait until there are packing boxes all over the Governor’s Mansion to toss out a few bromides about the tax, he’ll be a failure.
Like his predecessor, Ralph Northam.
This column has been republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.