More Tax and Transportation Maneuvers

As Virginia’s House and Senate leaders play chicken during state budget talks, hurtling ever closer to a government shut-down, public perceptions are critical. The side that tars the other with blame for the impending disaster gains the upper hand in the battle for public opinion and, hence, the negotiations. Two years ago, Gov. Mark R. Warner and the Senate succeeding in pinning responsibility on the House of Delegates for a looming shut-down, causing consternation and panic in House ranks.

This year, the House may turn the tables. As Patrick McSweeney argues in a recent column, “Legislation by Extortion,” the Virginia Constitution prohibits legislators from passing a budget bill predicated upon tax increases that have not been enacted yet. But that’s exactly what the Senate is doing: pushing for a budget that requires $1 billion a year in added taxes.

Now we’re hearing arguments like McSweeney’s emanating from the House. The Lynchburg News & Advance quotes Del. Lacey Putney, I-Bedford, one of the six house budget negotiators, as pushing for a halt to budget negotiations until the Senate strips all transportation-related tax increases out of its proposed budget.

“We will not sign a conference committee report on any budget if it contains a tax increase,” The News & Advance quotes Putney as saying. “If the Senate and the governor would recognize what I think is a very unsound proposal of embedding taxes in a budget, if they could accept that, I think we could adopt a budget in short order.”

Sen. Walter Stosch, R-Henrico, a key Senate negotiator notes in the article that the same logic applies to the House’s proposed use of debt. If the House wants to make the case that Senate instransigence is holding up the budget, then it should consider stripping from its spending proposals the issuance of new debt. All tax increases and debt issues should be considered in a separate session that treats new transportation revenue sources as add-ons to the next two-year budget.

When Gov. Gerald Baliles pushed through a transportation tax increase in 1986, he did so in a special session. He made the case for the tax increase on its own merits; he didn’t need to threaten a tax shut-down. That’s what Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Senate leadership need to do as well — or risk taking the rap for any mayhem caused by the prolonged wrangling.

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5 responses to “More Tax and Transportation Maneuvers”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    So… for either side – both sides to escape being “tarred”, a budget passes with no debt and no new taxes and no transportation money.


    And then Kaine has on his desk, this budget and his only choice of action is to either sign it or veto it. Right?

    Hmm… I think I smell a special session.

  2. Been There Done That Avatar
    Been There Done That

    Ahhh…but you forget, Governor Baliles did not have to deal with a group of posturing ideologues who now control the House of Delegates.

    At the time, Baliles’ plan passed the House with a one cent sales tax increase. The Senate balked and after a great deal of negotiation beween the parties the one-half cent tax increase was agreed upon.

    The difference is that there was an effort made by the legislators to forge a consensus for the best interest of the state and its citizens. They recognized there was a problem and worked to address it–at least a majority of each house did. There was not a lot of “stonewalling” in either house.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Hey Larry, they are now in a Special Session.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    No… I mean a REAL special session. 🙂

    Take Transportation out of the current budget so a budget can be passed…. and localities can get their own budgets done…

    defer the Transportation issue (again)… to a separate transportation-only special session.

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Posturing ideologues – their ideology is power for power’s sake – are the Republicans, RINOs, in the Senate.

    The common good and best interests of the Commonwealth and its citizens are served by not raising taxes.

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