One Good E-mail Blast Deserves Another

Uh, oh, the e-mail wars are heating up. I’ve just received another e-mail, this one from a group, “Moving Virginia Forward,” that features a message from Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. Now that the House of Delegates has nixed Kaine’s nearly $1 billion-a-year tax plan, proposing instead to transfer money from the General Fund surplus, the Tax Lobby is pushing for a “permanent” solution.

His transportation package, Kaine says, “will establish fiscally responsible, long-term, stable sources of funding for transportation while giving local communities the power to grow only as fast as their transportation infrastructures allow.” (Bold face in the original.)

It’s going to be a hard sell convincing people that Virginia needs to raise taxes for transportation while a $1 billion surplus is sloshing around the General Assembly. Allowing communities “the power to grow only as fast as their transportation infrastructures allow” sounds good — but it’s also a recipe for a housing shortage. Where is the development/real estate lobby on this issue?


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21 responses to “One Good E-mail Blast Deserves Another”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    The transportation debate will likely break along regional lines more than party lines. Rural legislators, Democrat and Republican, who think they can sit on their hands during the funding debate will find themselves and their districts vulnerable when NOVA legislators, Democrat and Republican, decide that a re-write of the funding formula brings to NOVA the same thing as an increase in taxes–more money. BKD

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    What housing shortage?

    Toll Borthers just released it’s forecast and it states:

    Orders for new homes fell 29 percent in the quarter ended Jan. 31.

    “The Toll Brothers data is telling us that the fairy dust of rising home prices is floating away,” said Morgan Stanley’s chief global economist, Stephen S. Roach, in New York. “The economy is going to slip back to a weak pace of underlying income and labor growth.”

    The full article can be read here.

    Don’t let the development/real estate lobby fool you, Jim. You’re smarter than that!

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 4:48, I’ve used this blog to argue that real estate prices are wildly inflated, especially in Northern Virginia and that a big correction in real estate valuations is very likely. The fact that home sales are taking a nose dive is not necessarily a sign of a housing glut, however.

    Compare the number of households that have moved into Northern Virginia over the past couple of years with the number of new houses being built. (I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips, but I’m pretty sure there’s more new households than new houses.)

    How do I explain falling orders in the face of rising demand? Demand for McMansions may have tumbled, but the demand for affordable and accessible housing has not. Middle class homebuyers have been prices out of the market. Constricting the supply of real estate won’t help them.

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Exactly right, Jim. The number of new jobs compared to the number of new houses in Fairfax is something like 3 to 1. As I recall it was something like 76,000 jobs and 23,000 homes.

    The doubling up problem is one result of high home prices. Notice that a chief complaint was the nuber of cars doubling up caused. You can expect a similar problem for any other high density solution, although for a properly planned and situated solution the problem might be slightly less.

    The exodus to Loudoun is another result.

    Toll Brothers does make larger homes. But another problem is that it takes so long to get a home through the system, that fewer homes are offered. Fewer order for new homes means fewr new owners are vacating their existing homes, fewer used homes are available, and prices and rents stay high, providing the demand is there. Demand appears to be abundant.

    Fewer new, large, homes doesn’t necessarily translate into lower housing costs.

    Apparently we are not going to allow localities to restrict development for lack of roads, and we are not going to raise money for roads either.

    Sounds a lot like Business as Usual.

  5. Anonymous Avatar

    The one type of housing that has been generally missed in the housing boom is low and middle range apartments. Not public housing, housing that young blue-collar working class people can afford. There is a constant struggle in NoVA for people working lower-paying jobs to find affordable housing. Needless to say the huge influx of foreign workers hasn’t helped here and it will be even worse if any guest-worker plan comes through.

    In a previous posting I wrote about my experiences in a well-managed apartment complex in Alexanrdia. We had relatively low turnover for an apartment complex and that helped to keep rents reasonable. In the ’90’s we were inundated by immigrants who at least doubled the density of occupation and caused the sort of problems you’d imagine with that type of change. As more of us low-density tenants (1 or 2 in a 2 BR) moved out, more high-density tenants moved in.

    When they began parking their cars in nearby expensive single-family home neighborhoods, the day of reckconing came. Now that complex is converting to “luxury” apartments or condos, meaning that neither the old tenants nor the ones who replaced them can afford to live there. Before I moved out in 2002, rent on my 1 BR there was $730. I know a couple of people who still live there and one person is paying $1500 a month for a 2BR and another got notice that her rent was going up $300 – in one notice. In the 16+ years I lived there from late ’85 to mid 2002, my rent didn’t rise $300 overall.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    This morning the BLS released its estimate of net new job creation in Janaury. Including upward revisions in the new job estimates for the previous few months, it was a pretty good report:

    Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 193,000 in January, and the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Job gains occurred in several industries, including construction, mining, food services and drinking places, health care, and financial activities.
    Interestingly, construction employment still seems to be growing robustly, despite some concerns that the real estate market is cooling off; 46,000 of the new jobs created last month were in construction.

    Taking a look at the industry shares of employment gains over the past year illustrates that construction has regularly accounted for nearly one out of five new jobs in the US economy.

  7. Is anyone here opposed to a fiscally responsible, long-term, stable source of funding for transportation?

  8. Raising taxes when there is a surplus is not fiscally responsible.

  9. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Kingfish,

    The problem as always isn’t in the nice high-sounding words that are used as catch-phrases for the press, but the devil is in the details…

  10. Exteremist – I agree that the devil is in the details, but first let’s see if we can agree on the goal. Are we all in favor of a fiscally responsible, long-term, stable source of funding for transportation?

    Freddie- Fiscal responsibility is meeting your financial obligations with integrity. I want to pay as little in taxes as I can and still have the quality of public service I expect, including the ability to actually get my car around the area in rush hour traffic. I am not naive and do not expect the traffic fairy to magically solve this for me. It will cost me some money.

  11. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Kingfish,

    My point is that no-one would say “no” in answer to your question. Now, when we start trying to determine just what kind of programs and how to fund them, we then get into the details of just what is “responsible”.

  12. E Joseph West Avatar
    E Joseph West

    Mr James H Dillard, II
    Fairfax, Virginia

    Jim,

    It is with great satisfaction that I learn of your rejection by the House of Delegates
    for a position as Visitor at the College of William & Mary, also my alma mater
    (MBA, 1990). Justice was done. The attached two articles below explain the
    situation in detail. I note that you made yourself “unavailable for comment” to
    both reporters.

    The Board of Visitors is wrong to cite your “unwavering principle” in a resolution
    questioning the judgment of the House of Delegates, because it was your lack of
    principle over many years which eventually lead to your rejection for this appoint-
    ment by Mark Warner, who also did not act on either conviction or his promises
    or his word while he was Governor (What a guy to align yourself with!).

    Yes, you had a long career as a Delegate, but one which should be characterized as
    running as a Republican and then turning your back on nearly every core principle
    of the Republican Party. You often did that gleefully in a way to appeal to your
    core constituency, unionized public school teachers. To this day, journalists often
    refer to you as a “moderate,” which is unsupported by either your political positions
    or your voting record; on the contrary, one must label you a liberal based on that
    record. You did not even have the common decency to claim that you were an
    “independent Republican,” as did a recent candidate for Governor who garnered
    less than 2 percent of the vote.

    Finally, I sense that the liberal component of our political spectrum already was
    “over quota” at the College of William & Mary before your aborted appointment
    to the Board of Visitors. The purpose of a university is the search for truth and
    the education of young people in the known truth. Observing your actions and
    statements over a twenty-five year period, I have no idea how you would have
    contributed to that fundamental mission.

    E Joseph West
    Falls Church, Virginia

    ——————————————————————————–

    W&M Board Lauds Member Ousted by Former GOP Colleagues

    By LARRY O’DELL
    Associated Press Writer
    Friday, February 10, 2006

    RICHMOND, Va. – The College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors on Friday unanimously approved a resolution commending James H. Dillard II, whose confirmation to the board was denied by his former Republican colleagues in the House of Delegates.

    Dillard was a Republican delegate from Fairfax County for 32 years before retiring last year. Former Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner appointed him to the board of his alma mater, but the House voted 51-45 to reject Dillard’s appointment Thursday. All the votes against Dillard were cast by Republicans or GOP-leaning independents.

    House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, said the House GOP caucus opposed the appointment because Dillard campaigned for his Democratic successor and supported Republican Del. Frank Hargrove’s primary opponent. Both of the candidates Dillard supported had worked as his aide.

    Dillard, who learned about the House action while he was attending his third board meeting on the Williamsburg campus Thursday, has not returned phone calls seeking comment. Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said the former governor was disappointed and saddened by the action.

    The board lavishly praised Dillard in its seven-paragraph resolution.

    “The College of William and Mary has indeed grown better due to Jim’s friendship, stewardship, and leadership; its Board of Visitors will be the poorer without his voice,” the resolution says.

    “His unwavering principle, courage, and conviction, will _ as it has throughout his life _ find a way to affect us for the good _ and his example will continue to shine bright for our students, his colleagues, and all the citizens of Virginia.”

    This story can be found at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD%2FMGArticle%2FRTD_BasicArticle&%09s=1045855935241&c=MGArticle&cid=1137834014211&path=%21news%21vaapwire

    ——————————————————————————–

    House Gets Rid of W&M Visitor
    Former Delegate Dillard, appointed by Warner, had long-standing college ties

    BY PAMELA STALLSMITH
    TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
    Friday, February 10, 2006

    H. MORGAN GRIFFITH, House Majority Leader, R-Salem; DEL. BRIAN J. MORAN, House Democratic Caucus Chairman, Alexandria

    House Republicans turned on one of their own yesterday, dumping former Del. James H. Dillard II of Fairfax from the board of visitors of the College of William and Mary.

    In a move that Democrats decried as mean-spirited, the GOP-controlled House voted 51-45 against confirming the appointment of Dillard to the college’s board, to which he was appointed last summer by former Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner.

    Dillard, a moderate Republican and past chairman of the House Education Committee, served in the House for 31 years and did not seek re-election last year. He was among the leaders of the 17 House GOP mavericks in 2004 who broke from their party’s anti-tax leadership to support Warner’s $1.4 billion tax package.

    House Republican leaders said the action against Dillard was not retribution for the 2004 vote but resulted from a political “betrayal” and an apparent “quid pro quo” with the former governor for actively backing a Democratic candidate last year.

    “My feeling was there was a quid pro quo between the governor and Jim that if you will support the Democratic candidate — and he was very aggressive in supporting the Democratic candidate to replace him — if you will support the Democratic candidate I’ll give you this plum position,” House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, said after yesterday’s floor session.

    “We didn’t want to be a participant in that exchange of what I would consider ‘blood money.’”

    Griffith said Dillard supported two former aides — Democrat David W. Mardsen, who won Dillard’s old seat in last November’s election, and C.R. Clemmons, who waged an unsuccessful primary challenge against Del. Frank D. Hargrove Sr., R-Hanover.

    “I like Jim. It wasn’t an easy decision,” Griffith said. “The bottom line is you can’t reward folks for being traitors.”

    Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said the former governor was disappointed with the House’s action and disputed the suggestion that the two had reached an agreement that lead to the appointment.

    “Delegate Dillard is a well-regarded leader on education issues with decades of service and expertise,” she said. “He wanted to continue in public service and his own colleagues said no.”

    Serving on the William and Mary board is considered one of the premier gubernatorial appointments. Dillard’s ties to the nation’s second-oldest college run deep — one of his grandfathers served as rector, and he is a graduate.

    Dillard, who was unavailable for comment, was at a meeting of the university board when the House took its action. Rector Susan Magill called Dillard’s service invaluable and news of the House action “extremely distressing,” college spokesman William T. Walker said. He said the college would find other ways for Dillard to serve his alma mater.

    Dillard’s appointment unanimously cleared the Senate last month and survived an attempt earlier this week by the House Privileges and Elections Committee to purge his name from the list of appointees.

    The four other Warner nominees, including Barbara Ukrop of Richmond and Michael K. Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and the son of retired Gen. Colin Powell, were confirmed.

    “It’s fairly mean-spirited when you consider he was one of their own,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Del. Brian J. Moran of Alexandria said. “He would have been an excellent addition to the board.”

    Such an action is rare. Four years ago, the Senate Republican leadership led an effort that resulted in removing 17 appointees of former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore.

    In yesterday’s vote on Dillard, five Republicans — three from his home turf of Northern Virginia and two longtime colleagues — and one independent, Katherine Waddell of Richmond, joined 39 Democrats in supporting his appointment.

    Some House insiders suggested the action was intended to send a message to potential Republican renegades who might break with the leadership this year to support Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s transportation funding plan. Griffith denied that claim.

    Kaine spokesman Kevin Hall said state law specifies that a person who is rejected by the legislature for a particular board seat is not ever eligible for appointment to that same board.

    “We will move as quickly as we can to put forth an individual to fill the vacant seat,” he said.

    Times-Dispatch staff writer Andrew Petkofsky contributed to this report.

    Contact staff writer Pamela Stallsmith at pstallsmith@timesdispatch.com or (804) 649-6746.
    This story can be found at: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD%2FMGArticle%2FRTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1137833996727&path=%21news%21politics&s=1045855935264

    ——————————————————————————–

  13. How are Mr. West’s comments germane to the topic under discussion? Jim, I hope that this blog won’t be sunbject to hijack like that again.

  14. Extremist- I am glad that we agree on the goal. Now, can we agree that we should not be shifting funds in the budget previously dedicated for education, public safety and health to pay for transportation?

  15. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Kingfish,

    To quote a well known “independent republican” Senator, “everything is on the table”. I would be interested in hearing ideas on how we can most efficiently use our state revenue to meet all of our obligations before looking at new revenue. For example on education. Jim had a thread a few weeks ago on the SOQ methodologies and how this leads to automatic increases in revenue to education without real needs tests to determine if they are necessary. I’m all for providing quality in the basic services the state needs to provide, but I stress “basic” and “needs” in that. All too often the legislature and the Governor are too interested in quick political fixes (add money) and not solving the underlying problems.

  16. Extremeist- Although your tagline frightens me, again we are not far apart. Like you,I am for efficiency in government and like you, I do not want the government, State or Federal, doing weird things with my money. I agree with trying for long term solutions, which I had hoped was evident from the question I posed. I do not think it is a plausible long term solution to excessively penalize miscreant driving. ( What if people drive better and fines go down? Or, more likely, what if more people simply do not pay the fines and drive with suspended licenses?) I do not think it is a long term solution to say we’ll spend the annual surplus on transportation ( what happens to transportation investment when we have no surplus?). I do support the idea that both the Governor and the Speaker endorse, and which Jim has championed, that land use planning has to be a piece of this puzzle. But I do not think there is any question that there will have to be some new money in the mix to address this, for although we cannot pave our way out, additional pavement is a part of the solution. So, where does the new money come from? From teacher’s or sheriff’s salaries? It’s funny, but when the GOP was in the wilderness, their leadership reminded us all of the time that a tax by any other name, whether you call it a toll, or tuition, or fee, or a revenue enhancement, was still a tax. Odd how one’s perspective changes depending upon who has the privildge of sitting in the Speaker’s seat.

  17. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Kingfish,

    Sorry, I did not intend to frighten. I use the pseudonym to add a bit of irony since I believe most people would in truth find me quite reasonable in my thinking although some revert to immediate name-calling, thus my choice.

    I agree we need to look at all options, and I also agree that fines are not a place to look for revenue. I disagree with the house plan on that one. I do think there is much we can save in the education system, particularly in what I see as an overbloated administraion. I also think there are some aspects of curriculum that could be cut back. However, I do not think we should soloely look to the education budget for savings.

    Second, the problem I think most people have with spending on transportation is that funds do not remain there. About 20 years ago we had a sales tax increase to pay for transportation improvements. Unfortunately although we were promised then that this increase would be set aside for transportation, today little to none of that money is actually still used for that. Thus many people are skeptical when there are calls for more money for “transportation”. It might go there for a couple of years, but eventually it goes to other spending that legislators might have a harder time convincing the voters is a good use of their money. So, before I will support large increases in spending on transportation I think two things need to happen. First, transportation trust fund money must be constitutionally protected. Second, we need to have a reasonable transportation plan that does not attempt to just “build our way out” as you say.

  18. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    To a Conservative, any person educated in economics and government:

    fiscally responsible = the People of Virginia can pay for it in the taxes they already give. It’s a matter of setting priorities

    long-term = as long as there are Virginians they will be paying taxes. The economy and government revenues are inextricable. Until the economy totally collapses, there will be revenue.

    stable source of funding for transportation = stable is relative to the economy. If you take more money out in taxes, then there will be less revenue, eventually, for government. If you cut taxes the revenue to the state increases (see Kennedy, Reagan, Bush tax cuts)

    To a Liberal:fiscally responsible, long-term, stable source of funding for transportation = new taxes.

  19. Extremeist- I agree that we need teh Constitutional lock box that Gov. Kaine campaigned on. I’m not sure we help ourselves by waiting, given the length of the Amendment process nearly all of Kaine’s term would be expired before we could move – but the process should begin now.

    JAB- thanks for trivializing the discussion. Seriously, you’re better than that.

  20. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Kingfish,

    I am frustrated that the GA has not taken up an amendment to protect the transportation trust fund. Sen. Ken Cuccinelli sponsored a bill to do just that and it was continued to 2007 in committee. See: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?061+sum+SJ83

    The committee vote was 14-0. I found that interesting because there are multiple Senators on the committee that support the amendment. I can only assume this was a procedural maneuver to keep the bill from being killed outright in committee. I also noted that this is one of the committees that has an evenly split membership which tells me that you cannot blame solely Republicans or Democrats for this failure. I am at a loss as to why this bill was not approved given the length of time it takes to get amendments to the people for a vote.

    I will say this however, with many Senate committees having huge Republican majorities, I find it interesting that certain committees are left like this one to have no clear majority. It almost looks to me like they have been created by the leadership with the intent to send bills there that they intend to die.

    Also, while I’m sire JAB was being a bit over the top, his words are pretty accurate. It’s hard for me to find emocrats (or even Republicand for that matter) who don’t immediately jumpt on the “more taxes” bandwagon in order to imply we are being “fiscally responsible”. The old adage “there’s no free lunch” is accurate, but of course we don’t always have to eat every meanl at a 5 star restaurant either.

  21. Rtwng Extrmst Avatar
    Rtwng Extrmst

    Please excuse my many typos in my last post. I am usually better at proofreading, but was frustrated due to some slow response times on the computer today.

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