The Property Tax Rebellion — It’s Coming, I Tell Ya, It’s Coming!

Sooner or later there’s going to be a tax revolt in Virginia. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Indulge me for a moment while I recapitulate the argument that I’ve been making for a couple of years now:

Housing values shot through the roof, particularly in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads; property tax assessments — and taxes — shot up along with them. Higher taxes were palatable to homeowners as long as the value of their houses were climbing in sync. It was relatively painless to finance the higher tax load by dipping into the magically increasing homeowner equity through a refinancing or a second mortgage. Once real estate prices started declining and homeowner equity started evaporating, however, that practice could no longer continue. Local governments, addicted to the revenue, would raise tax rates to offset declining assessments. Unable to pull equity out of their houses, homeowners would feel the pain of higher taxes more acutely than ever before.

That’s the scenario I laid out, and I expected a tax revolt here in Virginia. So far that revolt has failed to materialize. But in other states, the scenario is unfolding more or less as I predicted. For evidence, I present this editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

Arizona is one of a growing list of states and big cities looking to raise taxes on homes to close budget gaps in 2008 and 2009. Housing values are expected to decline by $1.2 trillion this year, according to Global Insight Inc., an economic consulting firm, and that means tens of billions of dollars in lost taxes.

In recent weeks, Fairfax County in northern Virginia, Washington state, Chicago and Memphis have announced proposals to increase residential property tax rates to offset declining revenues. So at the very time that states and cities are begging for money from Washington to help distressed homeowners pay their mortgages, property tax hikes could push hundreds of thousands of homeowners under water.

Here’s a contributing factor that I hadn’t considered: Higher property taxes have a double whammy: Not only do higher tax rates increase the homeowner’s tax liability, they simultaneously reduce the homeowner’s ability to dip into equity to pay those taxes by aggravating the decline in housing values.

The Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky reviewed dozens of studies on real-estate prices and concluded that “the evidence from the most reliable estimates” is that between 60% and 90% of property taxes are capitalized into a reduced value of the home. So a permanent $200 a year increase in the property tax could reduce the sales value of the home by between $1,200 and $1,800.

The explosive growth in local government spending is not sustainable. Between 2000 and 2007, personal incomes increased 27 percent, median home values 48 percent, and property tax collections 62 percent. Something has to give. The Journal sees tax revolts brewing in Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Nevada, and expects property tax relief to be the sleeper issue of 2008.

While the WSJ is spot on regarding the impact of rising property taxes, I have seen no indication that its editorial writers understand the driving force behind local government spending. Outside the usual cesspools of corruption and incompetence, the problem isn’t extravagant spending in the traditional sense of waste, fraud and abuse (WFA). WFA is a constant, part of the background noise. Increasing spending has two sources, neither of which are easily remedied: (a) increasingly dysfunctional human settlement patterns, which drive up the cost of providing infrastructure and public services, and (b) the institutional rot of public education, which absorbs massive funding increases to little effect.

The tax revolt is coming, I’m tellin’ ya. It’s coming. Sooner or later, I’m going to be right!

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    As one who has reviewed Fairfax County’s budget for several years, the prime cause of increased spending in the county is the operation of the public schools.

    While there are certainly areas where performance could be improved and some marginal programs eliminated, by and large Fairfax County government expenditures, except for FCPS operations, have generally not increased faster than the combined rate of inflation and population growth. For government performance, that’s pretty good.

    Fairfax County Public Schools increase spending at rates that vastly exceed increases in population and general inflation. Yet cost for general education are more in line with those of general county services. In sum, the costs to educate the typical student, be he/she white, black, Asian, Hispanic, or whatever are not out of line.

    FCPS does have a bloated staff. Its operational costs for ESOL and the most expensive Special Education programs continue to explode. A good part of the costs for ESOL cost increases relates to the children of illegal immigrants — as politically incorrect as that statement is. Keeping food service, landscaping and construction wages dirt cheap with illegal laborers pushes up real estate taxes.

    Also, FCPS offer gold-plated Special Education programs in the most expensive areas — autism and mental retardation. FCPS’ programs vastly exceed both federal and state requirements. People move here for the services. FCPS denies it, except for its most candid employees.

    Again, I’d make many cuts and changes to both budgets if I were in charge, but by and large county government is fairly efficient; school operations are not.

    I’ve never seen any evidence that Fairfax County government costs are more expensive because of the suburban nature of the county. Indeed, what little facts and data are being leaked from the Tysons Corner Task Force suggest that just the opposite seems to be true. The costs of constructing infrastructure in an urban Tysons Corner are staggeringly high.

    But one out of two is not bad, Jim. If you played for the Nationals, you’d be paid millions annually for that batting average.


  2. Cargosquid Avatar

    Recently, I’ve gotten a job that reviews foreclosures. Property taxes have gotten so bad that the counties are addicted. They want the money even if values plummet. I just processed a property whose value dropped from $818,000+ to $672,000+ and the poor owner still owed $160 MORE in taxes the year the values dropped. Because the county took advantage of the rule that let them raise the rate since the value dropped.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: the expense of ESL
    re: cost effectiveness of FCPS

    One of the key issues with regard to property taxes and whether they are justifiable at the current levels is.. I think twofold:

    1. – how much per capita for a given function – AND it’s trend line because, at least, in theory, the cost per person should not go up (except for inflation) unless the services have been increased.

    For instance, what is the cost per capita for BOTH ESL and FCPS in general?

    2. – the ability to compare these costs across jurisdictions .. sorta of like what the Clare Luce Booth Institute did a few months back… but perhaps with a bit more focus..(more of the same but better).

    The focus is on how much it costs and not what is received nor any way to really measure the “value”.

    I don’t discount the ESL costs but I’d like to point out that 1/3 of the kids in Virginia comes from economically disadvantaged circumstances – which has more meaning to it than economic – because they are, in some respectly, parentally disadvantaged – at least compared to other kids with 24/7 parenting.. especially with regard to education.

    And actually 2/3 of Virginia kids do score “proficient” on the NAEPs either.

    Anyhow.. many of these kids CAN be reached.. but it IS expensive – also -just like ESL and special needs is.

    The issue ought not to be the amount of money spent – but how cost-effective it is – just as it is with other services.

    Citizens need a way to determine if the money being spent.. whether some think it is “too much” or “not enough” is well-spent… or not.

    The dialog is invariably two-sided…

    “our taxes are way to high”

    “we are not adequately funding out schools”.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry – re effectiveness of programs. I’ve never checked into the measurements for the effectiveness of ESOL, but I did research Special Education programs. High-level administrators from FCPS have readily admitted that they have no way of measuring the effectiveness of the very expensive programs for autism and mental retardation that greatly exceed standards.

    I know several people with doctorates in special education who would readily agree that the expensive programs may work for some children, but not for many. A trial of the program in Fairfax County produced very inconclusive approaches.

    Why are we spending this kind of money? There are many within the FCPS power structure who want to be able to proclaim that the district is on the leading edge of these services and we are too politically correct to say that, terrible as it is, some children simply will not be able to be helped. The statement “I’m terribly sorry, but there really is nothing that can be done for your child” cannot be uttered.

    These are clearly tragic situations. But does it make sense to devote a disproportionate amount of resources to programs not proven to work because of tragic case? Government by emotion?

    Meanwhile, class size for the general education student increases. Government by emotion!


  5. Anonymous Avatar

    Here is a little suggestion. The state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission staff now has a bank of data over time on state spending growth, spending adjusted for inflation, per capita, by agency, etc. It is quite handy. But nobody is doing that for local government spending and debt (although the Auditor of Public Accounts does gather and publish the raw data.)

    So some enterprising legislator needs to get that done at the 2009 session — get JLARC to compile and analyze data on LOCAL spending.
    I submit that local spending real growth rates will be 50 to 100 percent higher than state spending growth rates.

    It is the spending, stupid. But it is also possible to grow spending that fast because the voters still often don’t understand the interplay of tax rates and tax assessments. Local officials can cut the rate a penny or two and claim they lowered taxes. It is also a fact that the pro-spending lobby is strong and very attentive in localities like Richmond, Fairfax, Virginia Beach.

    The Assembly of course came within a whisker of giving localities the power to shift more of the property tax burden onto business and rental and farm properties. But the proposal did nothing on spending, it was just a tax shift. The good news is the failure of that dump idea keeps the focus on the real problem — spending. It isn’t just the gold plated schools, and some of that gold plate for disabled kids is federally mandated. There are many other things which could disappear.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I have three kids that attend what is statistically the best high school in the city. All of them absolutely detest going to school, because of a ‘my way or the highway’ mentality for most of the courses. One has completely given up, only doing what is needed for passing. Another opted to take high school classes in the morning and attend college at night. The third will be entering a two year high school program for nursing, as a warm up for medical school. Had these special programs not been available there is no doubt in my mind that the last two would be in the same boat with the first. But what about the student body in general? Those who don’t have alternatives.

    I have to wonder if all this money being spent on schools isn’t being shortchanged given the results overall. Perhaps the issue isn’t mandating the students meet the expectations of the school but rather the school meets the expectations of the students.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Yesterday in the WaPo, the letter below appeared in the LtoE section. Please note the following: “IEP services are based on a child’s individual needs and that it is against the law to deny services to a child because of lack of resources.”

    If this is, indeed, factual, FCPS are in very deep trouble because it implies that any child who needs special ed is entitled to it – period. The money must be found somewhere whether by raising taxes or by short-changing the rest of the student body. Does anybody know if this is true?

    Deena Flinchum

    “The April 22 Metro article “Proposed Special-Ed Change Assailed” discussed a proposed revision of Virginia’s special-education rules that would allow the elimination of Individualized Education Program-
    mandated services without parental consent. Charles Pyle, a state Education Department spokesman, said, “Resources are finite. This is an attempt, through the revision process, to make it more likely that those school resources are used where they are most needed.”

    Mr. Pyle should be well aware that IEP services are based on a child’s individual needs and that it is against the law to deny services to a child because of lack of resources. Providing special-education services in a way that considers them to be “finite” — that services provided for one child means there’s that much less for other children — violates special-education law and is not in the interest of any child.

    As the parent of a child receiving special-education services, I can tell you that parents like me have enough to battle without the implication that we must compete with each other for our children’s appropriate education.


  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: JLARC, State Auditor.. data, etc..

    the data is there… it needs to be aggregated and sliced and diced into views that present cost-effectiveness.

    Government.. is accountable for reporting expenditures… how money is spent but not whether or not the results offer insight into cost-effectiveness.

    I’d say.. this is an area ripe for some volunteers at the local government level or a VPAP-like website that allows comparisons about cost-effectiveness….

    re: schools .. what they offer… and what parents/students want.

    I see the schools mandate to produce an educated, employable workforce; to produce young adults who have the skills necessary to be productive and support themselves rather than joining the ever growing “entitlement” society.

    For kids and parents that want “more” than this and are not poor, the market does provide many options and I would suggest – again – that the purpose of the public school system is not to provide enhanced and/or creative offerings unless those are things they can AFTER they’ve satisfied their primary mandate.

    It seems to me if we are going to spend a pile of money on ESL and special needs… that educating kids with normal IQs that clearly have potential but are economically disadvantaged .. then again.. producing an educated .. employable workforce is a legitimate endeavor -at least as much and/more so than some of the other programs… targeted to the other needs also.

    Education.. like roads.. really boils down to never having enough money to do everything that is said to be needed.. and instead priorities… of what to spend on and what to let parents spend extra on.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    Sooner or later local government will realize there is no point in assessng a tax for which there is no ability to pay.

    Taxpayers and voters do ununderstand the relationship between assessments, tax rates, and cash taxes paid. To sugggest otherwise is underestimating the public. However, anyone with an agenda or an unfunded mandate can promote it, saying, hey, it’s only a penny on the tax rate, figuring that someone else will help pay for what they want.

    Do that often enough, and you have the situation we are in.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    The argument that the law requires unlimited spending is specious. When the requested services are within the rules, a lack of financial resources would not seem to be a valid defense by a school system. But when requested services exceed what are required, there does not seem to be an obligation for a school system to provide them.

    Take a look at the Virginia Department of Education’s Annual Report on dispute resolution for Special Education Services.

    If school districts were denying required services, parents would be wining the bulk of the administrative appeals. But that is not happening. There are very few decisions made in favor of parents challenging the actions on their children’s Special Education plans.

    Anyone can make the false arguments that are being reported in the WaPo. To a WaPo reporter, anything that would require more government spending and higher taxes makes good sense. But the data show otherwise. School districts can and do lawfully limit or deny Special Education services.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Bacon,

    First – most of local government spending is driven by mandates. Get a copy of the Commission on Local Government’s Catalog of Mandates. There are now 500+ and the majority are for education. If you want local government spending reduced, then call your congressman or woman and tell them to repeal the NCLB, Clean Water Act, etc.

    Second, local government is not exempt from inflation or the price of oil. They wish they were.

    Third, in most urban/suburban counties assessments are done annually, but in others the time between assessments can be as long as four years. Also, sometimes the data used by the assessor may be as much as 18 months ago, so it can reflect the boom times of subprime and flippers.

    Fourth, the property tax is one of the few local tax resources left to local governments. If you want your property taxes to go down, then tell your delegate/senator to give more options to local governments!

    Finally, if you want your local real estate taxes to go down, tell your local government to close libraries, parks, reduce police patrols, close fire stations, have larger classes, and FIRE people. Most of local government budgets are in people, so get rid of employees.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Attaboy, 5:06.

    Tell us what you really think.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Good post, as usual. One clarification – as property values rose, tax rates declined markedly in many jurisdictions, at least in Northern Virginia. Prince William led the way and the others had to follow.

    But the real problem is the property tax itself. It is an ancient method of raising revenue that may have made sense at some distant time. However, I doubt that any of us working with a clean sheet for funding schools and local police/safety services would get the idea that an ad valorem tax on the unrealized value of real property would be just the ticket. My conclusion, reached after listening to one of the few statewide idea campaigns in the Commonwealth in 2005 (electorally unsuccessful, of course), is that total elimination of the property tax in favor of income taxation (and probably use taxes for transportation) is the only feasible way of improving the situation. But then, of course, one has to decide who asserts the tax and how does it get distributed sensibly and equitably.

    – NoVA Scout

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Canada uses it’s GST – which is pretty hefty as I recall and especially heft on alcohol and cigs.

    But methinks the school systems would be strongly opposed to doing away with the property tax and using sales and income because increasing the “take” would be much more difficult and they’d actually end up with budgets that they’d have to live with instead of whipping up their parental constituency every time they want more money.’d set the sales and income tax.. and forget it… and you get what you get.

    The major two perennial funding issues are roads and schools.

    Roads do have to live (so far) with a funding stream that is not adjusted for inflation.

    Schools.. at the State and local level seem to be unbounded.

    Every year.. they export more – over and above inflation and student growth – often without a substantial dialog (honest debate) about what programs and services need more funding.

    TMT talks about immigration and ESL as being expensive but the ever-rising school budget syndrome occurs in counties without ESL issues also.

    So .. long story short …. if there is angst about property taxes – there needs to be a recognition that in most places in Virginia – about 70% of the tax rate is for schools – AND .. to be fair and honest .. about 80% of THAT is salaries.

    Schools in many areas are among the biggest employers in those areas.

    In my county of about 115,000, over 1000 are School System employees by far the largest single employer.

    so.. will the revolt be over Property Taxes or will the revolt be over school funding?

    Bonus Question: Are the long term prospects of ever increasing school funding … problematical.. given the aging.. (read fixed income) demographis?

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim you are correct

    The revolt is coming

    The cause… the boomers

    Its nice when you can get what you want due to the numbers in your demographic

    Why has school funding increased so much in the recent past? because the baby boomers had kids in school.

    Currently many baby boomers no longer have kids but they still are employed and their income is increasing so they don’t mind taxes that much

    Very soon many boomers will start retiring. They will be on a FIXED income. Now those taxes are going to start hurting more…. Tax revolt

    Two important caveats however.

    1. In Fairfax county at least many on fixed incomes are protected from rising property tax rates so it might be a mute point.

    2. As the boomers continue to age they may just shift their focus and appetite for government services to other areas… say assisted living facilites… transportation options… if thats the case taxes might actually increase even faster ๐Ÿ™


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    ” given the aging.. (read fixed income) demographics?”

    Don’t kid yourself. That isn’t going to happen: if there are not enough young folk, we’ll import them. What we are seeing now is a drop in the bucket compared to the immigration we can expect, and will need to support Social Security.

    I believe one reason government is not doing more about immigration is that it is part of their plan to acclimatize Americans to a more multicultural existence.


  17. Anonymous Avatar

    “Schools in many areas are among the biggest employers in those areas.”

    Yep. They are right up there with builders. When we slice those two things at once, there will be as much pain as there is savings.


  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: demographics won’t matter

    here’s the scenario

    You retire from your job in Fairfax. The traffic sucks.

    Every time you turn around there’s increased costs….

    Every year.. Fairfax county increases the “ante” on your home taxes…

    You can see your house (even in a depressed sales environment) for a whole bunch more money than you paid for it…

    .. move to a BETTER home.. in a place that has much less traffic .. and 1/2 the property tax…

    … call me crazy but .. I think to think that people won’t move.. is not dealing with some basic realities.

    The higher the property tax.. the older folks get.. the more they’re going to leave.. and if their replacements earn less money… and cannnot afford the higher taxes .. what happens?

    .. can you say.. “the bottom drops out of housing values?”

  19. Anonymous Avatar


    Like I said.

    Sooner or later local government will realize there is no point in assessng a tax for which there is no ability to pay.

    But here is a question for you. If the replacements earn less money, what does that say about all the companies that currently produce all the congestion-inducing high salaries? Won’t they still need skilled and vigorous young people?

    Where do you suppose they will get them?

    Where do you suppose they will live?

    If high taxes and congestion drive away those on fixed incomes, why not those with other incomes?


  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: congestion-producing higher salaries and driving people away…

    WHERE would they go? to Detroit?

    WHERE do folks go when the furniture plant is replaced with a mattress plant that pays less?

    Do you think that Fairfax will evolve to a bunch of lower-paying companies while other urban areas will continue to pay higher salaries for the same work?

    Where do you think the folks in LA California go when the salaries are lower than what is needed for a new house?

    Do people abandon LA and go work in Walmarts in Podunk, Miss just so they can get into a cheaper home?

    People are not owed anything.

    The world is not fair.

    People get paid less than what they are worth.

    Houses cost more than they should.

    None of the above entitles anyone to a subsidy.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    “But here is a question for you. If the replacements earn less money, what does that say about all the companies that currently produce all the congestion-inducing high salaries? Won’t they still need skilled and vigorous young people?

    Where do you suppose they will get them?

    Where do you suppose they will live?

    If high taxes and congestion drive away those on fixed incomes, why not those with other incomes?”

    College grads will keep coming
    because this is where the high paying jobs are (rinse cycle repeat)

    This area is great if you are single

    The problem I see many of my friends going through is what are you supposed to do once you have a family

    Its not the single 20s who are causing the traffic congestion. We actually like living in condo towers close in. EMR loves us we fit into his utopian world perfectly ๐Ÿ™‚

    Its the 30 and 40s with their killer commutes who are causing the congestion across a wider area as they seek bigger homes, space, and better school districts

    Interesting point on the retirees moving out of the region.

    My hunch is it won’t be as popular as many people suspect. Its not easy to leave your neighborhood community.

    Another trend I have seen is the baby boomers leaving and then basically giving their place of residence to their kids so they can actually afford to live in the area.


  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Another trend I have seen is the baby boomers leaving and then basically giving their place of residence to their kids so they can actually afford to live in the area.”

    I’ve seen this happen at least 3 times. In one case.. the parents swapped homes.. for their son with 3 kids a a killer commute.

    Del Webb has built a new development in Fredericksburg for empty nesters who are moving here from .. guess where?

    and.. the reason why they move just beyond Fairfax? to be close to their kids… just beginning their careers.

    re: “Its not the single 20s who are causing the traffic congestion. We actually like living in condo towers close in.”

    this is exactly right…

    here’s the reality – the folk that are using the most resources are those who are married with kids…

    They take killer commutes to maximize their salaries .. then they move as far out as they have to, to afford a proper house for the kids…

    .. and in the process of this.. they imposed tremendous commuting impacts on the outlying jurisdictions as well as the interstate corridor…

    .. an then to top this off.. their kids cost localities $3-4K … which is less that the taxes they pay on their homes.. so the folks who live and work locally get that extra amount added to THEIR tax bills.

    don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-kid or anti-parent .. but I DO think that if we.. are to confront the issues and try to find solutions that will actually work – that we need to honestly address where the problems are.

    and they are not with young singles who are fine with living in smaller apartments near where they work and play…

    it’s the folks who are driving the daylights out of their cars to get that “affordable” home that are not only imposing extra costs on themselves ..but others…

    their lifestyles rely on very expensive infrastructure… to support them…

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    WHERE would they go? to Detroit?

    They’ll go to where they can find a better deal. We know they are leaving California for Phoneix, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Portland. Those Portland boys HATE to see a new car from California.

    Pittsburge replaced a bunch of high paying steel jobs with high tech but low-paying electronic assembly jobs.

    “Its not the single 20s who are causing the traffic congestion. We actually like living in condo towers close in. EMR loves us we fit into his utopian world perfectly :-)”

    How long are you planning on staying 20?

    I don’t see the problem here. Larry says high taxes will cause a housing price collapse. I agree with him.

    Then I say, what next?

    Either a bunch of people get a good deal on cheap homes near good jobs, or they don’t. either they drive less or they don’t.

    Either way it will work itself out.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    “…then they move as far out as they have to, to afford a proper house for the kids…”

    Why is that a failure in road pricing policy? sounds like a failure in development policy to me. if there were a proper house for the kids near the jobs, or a proper job for the parents near a proper house then, problem solved.

    Heroic transportation systems are not needed to fix this, and they won’t fix this.


  25. Anonymous Avatar

    “Go to the zillow website and take a look at the real estate price differential between homes located on the Scarsdale side of the border (averaging $1.2 million) relative to homes located 50 feet away on the White Plains border (averaging $550,000).”

    You really think that politics don’t affect home values?

    50 feet isn’t all that far to get a lot more house for the money.

    Quote from Environmental and Urban Economics.


  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Why is that a failure in road pricing policy?”

    It’s a failure in letting the market sort of what folks want to spend their money on – if Government has a road policy where taxes from everyone are spent on infrastructure for longer distance commuters.

    If folks want to live 50 miles away then fine.. but when those same folks want the rest of Va to pay for new lanes for their commute.. that’s when our “road pricing policy” gets to be a political issue – as in what should the Va GA do about transportation funding?

    A case can be made to raise the statewide tax to pay for maintenance – even folks in RoVa want to have their existing roads tended to .. potholes fixed.. snow plowed.. etc…

    But how do you make the case for raising taxes statewide for new construction .. primarily to build commuting roads?

    If someone wants to commute a lot of miles everyday.. then what is wrong with them paying the roads that they need to do it?

    Some folks have been saying that since NoVa pays more in taxes than they get back – that paying for these commuter roads is a fair trade.

    But let me point out that the folks who commute do not live in Fairfax.

    The folk who actually live in NoVa – live and work “locally” are having THEIR taxes diverted to RoVa – NOT the folks who commute 50 miles a day and do not live in NoVa.

    So.. NoVa is getting ripped off twice

    think about it this way. What if ..instead of this bogus idea that NoVa pays for RoVa schools and in return RoVa pays for commuting roads…

    Why would RoVa do this? It sounds a lot like .. “we pay you..then you pay us”.

    how about we take out the middleman.. and just let those NoVa taxes go instead.. just for commuter roads directly?

    Perhaps those NoVa folks would be just fine having their taxes go to pay for commuting roads… so they pay for the commuting roads.. that bring in additional traffic that further congests NoVa roads…

    hmmm.. now why would NoVa do this .. instead of keeping their own taxes for their own roads and let the commuters pay for THEIR roads?

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Excellent comments Larry even more amazing since you are from Fredricksburg and you recognize the inner NoVa view on this


    I will agree with you that you can make the argument that it isn’t really fair to force new residents to fully pay for their transportation choice costs. However the current plan isn’t working and its obvious drastic change is needed. An arbitrary line in the sand must be drawn.

    If this policy was actually enacted would demand for exurbia decrease propably yes and there are some negative attributes associated with this. However, I feel that the benefits outweigh the negatives.


    “…then they move as far out as they have to, to afford a proper house for the kids…”

    “Why is that a failure in road pricing policy? sounds like a failure in development policy to me. if there were a proper house for the kids near the jobs, or a proper job for the parents near a proper house then, problem solved.

    Heroic transportation systems are not needed to fix this, and they won’t fix this.”

    It is a failure in development policy but its also a failure in transportation policy because you cant just tax and pave our way out of this mess

    IMHO something else is needed. Yes a true conservative would say let the market work things out but its not a free market there is zoning, proffers, business incentives, the list goes on and on.


  28. Groveton Avatar

    “Why are we spending this kind of money? There are many within the FCPS power structure who want to be able to proclaim that the district is on the leading edge of these services and we are too politically correct to say that, terrible as it is, some children simply will not be able to be helped. The statement “I’m terribly sorry, but there really is nothing that can be done for your child” cannot be uttered.”.


    For years the rate of autism was assumed to be 4-5 per 10,000. Recently, that rate has increased to 60 – 62 per 10,000 (Shirley Cohen, Targeting Autism – 2006, pps 12-13). And your contacts in special education want to tell the parents of severely autistic children to “go away”. It’s your friends in special education who are the problem – not the children. They have taken a very serious and tragic problem – and turned it into the explanation of why every 2 year old isn’t learning and speaking at the same rate.

    I am very sure they would diagnose Albert Einstein as autistic if he were a child in Fairfax County today. Albert Einstein suffered from language delay and did not speak until he was four. Fortunately for the world, Einstein attended a Catholic elementary school instead of Fairfax County Public Schools. I suppose your friends would have told Mr. and Mrs. Einstein “I’m terribly sorry, but there really is nothing that can be done for your child”.

    The overdiagnosis of ADD, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome is the problem because:

    1. Children are being over-medicated for no good reason.
    2. Children who suffer from no real problem are stigmitized by a label stamped on them because they were different when they were 2.
    3. Children with real problems like mental retardation, Rhett’s Syndrome and severe autism are being written off instead of being given the help they need to be the most functional adults they can be.

    The special ed special interests work this way:

    1. Diagnose lots of kids who are developing deifferently with lots of complex sounding diseases. Be vague and use letters whenever possible – such as pervasive development disorders (PDD) and ADD.

    2. Medicate some, implement fad diets for others (e.g. gluten free), counsel all (that’s where the labor and the money goes).

    3. Claim excellent results for a lot of children. These are the children who never really had a problem to start with, the Einsteins of our day.

    4. Write off the children who really do have severe learning disorders. Declare them hopeless.

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “However, I feel that the benefits outweigh the negatives. “

    Fine. I have no objection to any policy, as long as this is the case.


    If that is the case then figure out how those that benefit can pay off those that suffer disbenefits in such a way that they still come out ahead.

    Otherwise, those that suffer the disbenefits are subsidising those that enjoy the benefits. Usually that boils down to the situation Groveton described previously: someone is taking private property without compensation for public benefit.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “It’s a failure in letting the market sort of what folks want to spend their money on – “

    And how do we know what that is? We rely on special interest groups to lobby.

    My suggestion is to put a form on the back of your tax bill where youget to specify how you want YOUR money spent.

    It wouldn’t even have to be binding, but if the results are published, it will make it hard for people to make unsubstantiated claims about how people want their money spent. This is kind of like claiming th support of that magical silent majority.

    If that is what the failure is, then let’s solve THAT problem first, before we go off trying to fix a transportation problem that isn’t one.


  31. Anonymous Avatar

    “…so they pay for the commuting roads.. that bring in additional traffic that further congests NoVa roads…”

    It isn’t a commuter problem, it is a problem of overconcentrtion of jobs. AND commuters represent less than 20% of traffic. We are barking up the wrong tree.

    We are not going to get additional commuter roads, because we are in a non-attainment area, don’t have the money, and if we did it is financially unfeasible, as the ICC will show.

    It’s not a problem of who pays for what.

    Heroic transportation systems or changing how we send out the bills won’t fix this.

    We need to drop back and redefine the entire problem. Part of that is recognizing that what’s best for everybody isn’t the same as what is cheapest for everybody. Some subsidies ARE worth having because they produce overall more than they cost AND the individual costs are small enough to be trivial compared to the cost of eliminating the small inequities.



  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “..AND commuters represent less than 20% of traffic.”

    it’s THE 20% that is causing the outcry…

    the 80% in RoVa are not jumping up and own about the “crisis” that requires a 20 cent increase in the gas tax..

    further.. if it’s only 20% of the problem then why are you using the word ‘heroic” to describe the issue?

    ..and I’m not sure I ever saw your background for claiming that Farmville is a commuter bedroom community.. either… so how about providing that link again if you will.

    and I might buy the – “let’s change the way we do jobs and the concentration of jobs” except for three important reasons:

    1. – first, it would require a draconian command&control government approach that would be the worst of all worlds

    2.- second – I know of nowhere in the entire world that has approached the issue in this way, much less have success at it.

    3. – third – you seem to think that the actual problem of too many solo cars at rush hour is a built-in requirement that cannot be changed… and I believe that most folks if they had to choose between command&control of jobs verses command&control of solo rush hour driving would pick the latter as far less harmful…

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    I use heroic to mean any Really Expensive solution, like Metro, Elevated or Subterranean roadways, personal Rapid Transit.

    Even though that 20% is a small part of total traffic, to solve that problem the way we are going about it will require heroic methods.

    The 80% that doesn’t have the problem doesn’t have it because THEY have been provided with excess peak capacity, which we are ALL paying for. You should recognize this because it is the same argument you use about electric rates. since they have all they need (and it WASN’T paid for locally), they can afford to be selfish about NOVA problems.

    The link was in the to the comprehensive plan down there.
    http://www.cumberlandcounty. You can easily see that most of the county drives more than 30 minutes to work (page 25).

    Therefore, if it is long distance commuters causing all this congestion, Where is their congestion happening?

    But, I don’t think they should have to pay to create heroic systems that won’t work. I do think they should pay something to support NOVA if it can be shown that NOVA provides other benefits to them in return. Like providing 45% of all the cash flow in the entire state. I definitely don’t think that heroic systems that won;t work should only be paid for with local dollars.


    With regard to moving jobs:

    Why is control of where jobs go any more draconian than controlling where houses go, or farms go? We already have zoning laws which you have argued strongly in favor of. If we can downzone housing density we can downzone business density. (Although I still think we would have to compensate the owners appropriately.)

    It doesn’t even have to be done at once, do it by attrition. Impose rent control on office buildings. We KNOW that will cause them to go vacant: look how well it worked for apartment buildings.

    The simple fact is that too many jobs where we can’t get enough people to them is costing us a heap of money, wasting huge amounts of time, and other resources, and causing excess pollution. If any single enterprise was causing all that grief, we would slap them with fines. Problem is, in this case the single enterprise causing this particular problem is – Government.

    The fact that no one has done it, might mean it is a new idea, rather than a bad one. Maybe zoning law hasn’t progressed to the needed level for fundamental change.

    Anyway, some places are doing it. the plan for Beijing includes seven complete new satellite cities, to reduce crowding in central Beijing. The Netherlands has a policy called something like “decentralized urbanism”, which sounds a lot like my “More Places” theme.

    And the studies suggest that tolling will cause job centers to move, anyway. I just think that tolls are a bad way to achieve that result.


    Shared Vehicles.

    Nope, I offered my solution for increasing the number of shared vehicles: 1) Legalize jitneys
    2) Tax people who drive solo and use the money to pay people who make and drive car pools.

    Operating a car pool is a hassle and an expense. If that’s what you want people to do, then you should expect to pay them to do it. Pretty simple to tax what you don’t wan’t and pay for what you do want. (Be careful to call it Beneficiary Pays, instead of calling it a (ugh) subsidy).

    If you tax those that drive solo, that means EVERYONE who drives solo, NOVA and ROVA. If driving solo is bad, then it’s bad everywhere, right? Those people in ROVA would have the same rights to choose to create and use car pools, and get paid for them, as NOVA residents, so they should’nt complain about supporting someone else in another area.

    Finally, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. If Command and Control of rush hour driving is OK, then why not augment it with command and control of massive job centers.

    Why does it need to be Draconian? Set it up as a “free market” system just like your tolls. Sell the Zoning system or occupancy permits to Fluor, ame as for the roads. They can set the Tolls for occupancy at whatever they think is right.

    All the businesses have to do is decide if the “trip” is worth the price, Yea or Nay.

    We already have a draconian government, it might as well be one that works, in the sense of solving problems.


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