Tag Archives: Stephen D. Haner

Ready for Taxes on Netflix, NFL Sunday Ticket?

By Steve Haner

After a month of unproductive political theater, Virginia’s leaders will finally sit down like adults and negotiate the budget. Better late than never.  The message is “everything is back on the table,” which leaves the door wide open for the tax increase central to the Democrat’s demands. That deserves a quick no.

At this point, Virginians do not pay sales tax on their Netflix, Disney, or sports streaming package subscriptions. That is what they want to tax now. If you just paid an online vendor to file a tax return, next year a sales tax of up to 6 or 7% will be added to that bill. Likewise, any annual subscription for Microsoft Office or One Drive storage, or for an internet security system, will be taxed.

Substack will be taxed. Some online news and opinion streaming options will probably be protected by the exemption for newspapers, but others will not. That will be a fun dispute for the Tax Department to broker, one of many new rules to work out.

Did you pay to play that new movie on Amazon using bill credits you had built up? Will tax be added to that, as well? Or will the entire Prime membership trigger a tax? The whole idea is rife with questions and unintended consequences, even more so for the application of the tax to digital goods and services in the business realm.  Taxing business purchases produces the big revenue. Continue reading

Will Democrats Shut Down State Over Tax Hike?

By Steve Haner

The fight that is about to occur at the Assembly’s reconvened session on Wednesday is entirely about taxes, not about spending.

An analysis of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposed compromise budget – done by the Democrats’ favorite financial bean counters, not by conservatives – confirms his budget comes extremely close to the spending levels Democrats approved at the end of the General Assembly.  The gap compared to the $188 billion overall budget is little more than a rounding error. Continue reading

Utilities Will Gamble on Nukes With Your $$$

Artist rendering of VOYGR™ SMR plants powered by NuScale Power Module™

By Steve Haner

Standing firm against raising taxes is a fine thing, but it would help if Virginia’s leaders also stopped using people’s electricity bills to fund rent-seeking energy speculations.

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) has tweaked, but not vetoed, pending bills that allow both of Virginia’s investor-owned utilities to charge ratepayers for power plants that may not be built. The dream projects involve small modular nuclear technology, proven in military applications but so far speculative for commercial generation. Continue reading

Fighting Over the Check at the Green Power Cafe

By Steve Haner

New power plants are pretty useless unless they are connected by new power lines. The debate over who pays for those tall towers and miles of cable can be just as divisive as the fight over who pays for a proposed nuclear plant or offshore wind turbines.

Bottom line, of course, the customers ultimately pay. But which customers? Should it be those most reliant on that individual transmission line, everybody within the utility, or should it be all the customers within all the utilities inside a regional transmission organization? Continue reading

Compromise Budget Can Eclipse Stalemate

Gov. Glenn Youngkin

By Steve Haner

Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) is offering a compromise on the disputed state budget that gives Virginia’s Democratic legislators most of the spending they were initially demanding, especially for local schools and early childhood education. The Governor is also offering a quick path to a resolution that avoids additional months of budget stalemate and political division.

“On a day when Virginians were thrilled to witness an 80% eclipse of the sun, they should also cheer a budget compromise where a Republican governor moved about that far in the direction of meeting the Democrats’ stated goals without added taxes,” stated Derrick Max, President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute. “This is a more than reasonable good faith offer, recognizing that in a divided government, compromise is key.” Continue reading

Will Consumers Come First in VCEA Review?

FERC Commissioner Mark Christie of Virginia

By Steve Haner

“If we always keep as our focus what is best for consumers, in getting them reliable power for the least cost, then I think that’s the main guidepost we ought to follow.”

That was Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Mark Christie’s opening quote on a PBS broadcast on energy issues due to air April 9, but the 26- minute program can already be found on the network’s website and Christie distributed it via X today. Continue reading

Dominion Program to Bury Lines Halfway to Goal

By Steve Haner

Just over a decade ago, Dominion Energy Virginia announced plans to spend about $1.75 billion of its ratepayers’ dollars on a program to bury about 4,000 miles of its residential service lines underground. As of the end of last year, the tally was just over 2,000 miles buried at a total cost of $994 million.

The original goal was reported by Jim Bacon, who was initially favorable to the idea. The update comes from an annual report dated March 29 and posted by the State Corporation Commission. This reporter, who admittedly already lived in neighborhoods with underground lines installed at the cost of the developer, was skeptical of paying to bury somebody else’s lines, and this new report doesn’t ease the irritation. Continue reading

Call the Governor a Spoiled Brat? That’ll Work!

Not a visual that communicates the Democrats are leading an army in this fight. It screams loneliness.

By Steve Haner

A senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee just called the Governor of Virginia a spoiled brat, which of course became a headline. Is everybody getting the nonsense out of their systems? It is time for the grown-ups to intervene or we will be stuck in a stupid loop until July.

The state budget as it passed a few weeks ago will not stand. Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) will either impose line-item vetoes that drastically reduce the available revenue, or he will veto the entire $188 billion document. He has sufficient votes behind him to sustain those vetoes.

That Governor Youngkin would never accept an expansion of the sales tax to digital items on its own, without compensating tax reductions of some sort, has been obvious throughout this process. Democrats knew that. Expanding the tax to cover a host of business-to-business transactions, as well, was an intentional act of political arson by the Democrats. They knew all along it would never stand. They are begging for a veto for reasons hard to fathom.

Think back just one year, just one single year. Can anybody imagine Fairfax Democrats Richard Saslaw or Janet Howell building their budget on a tax proposal that has the Northern Virginia technology industry on the warpath? Can you see them proudly touting an effort to, as I put it earlier, kill the digital goose for its golden egg? These are not only not our fathers’ Democrats; these are not 2023’s Democrats. Continue reading

Climate Change Wars Coming to Virginia Schools?

You have to click on the illustration and expand it to even see the percentage of carbon dioxide from human activity in our atmosphere. A new lesson plan in waiting?

By Steve Haner

Young Virginians are not getting enough instruction on the deadly existential threat of climate change from the news media, their favorite social media sites, Hollywood productions and President Joe Biden’s campaign stump speeches. Virginia’s General Assembly Democrats are demanding that the public schools double down with a wave of new classroom materials.

The curriculum wars at the State Board of Education and in local school board meetings may now move on to a new topic if Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) signs House Bill 1088. The bill is ripe for a veto, having received support from only one Republican legislator out of 68, but after the first 100 or so vetoes, Youngkin’s veto pen may tire.

Should he sign the bill, do not assume the process will go as the patron (Delegate Betsy Carr, D-Richmond) intends. In fact, if the bill is followed to the letter, the resulting materials probably will not be to her liking. The text is short:

A. The Board shall make available to each local school board instructional materials on climate change and environmental literacy that are based on and include peer-reviewed scientific sources.

B. The Board shall develop, adopt, and make available to each local school board model policies and procedures, based on peer-reviewed scientific sources, pertaining to the selection of instructional materials on climate change and environmental literacy, including a requirement for any such selected material to accurately portray changes in weather and climate patterns over time, the impacts of human activity on changes in weather and climate patterns, and the effects of climate change on people and resources.

Continue reading

Wind Project Sued Over Claimed Threat to Whales

NOAA Right Whale status graphic, updated this month to report 123 recent deaths and injuries.

By Steve Haner

A coalition of public interest groups has now filed its expected lawsuit seeking to halt construction of Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore wind facility off Virginia Beach. Its key complaint is the federal permits were issued without a full and fair evaluation of the potential impact of the turbines on the shrinking North Atlantic Right Whale population.

The Heartland Institute, based in Illinois, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, with offices in Washington, D.C. and the National Legal and Policy Center of Falls Church, along with two individuals, are the listed plaintiffs. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and federal office holders are among the named defendants, along with Dominion.

The 61-page complaint to a District of Columbia federal court seeks relief under the Endangered Species Act. It claims the law requires the federal government to study the combined impact of all the planned East Coast wind projects, from New England waters down to North Carolina’s outer banks. Instead, the federal permitting authorities to date have looked at individual projects without regard to cumulative effects when issuing wildlife impact opinions and permits.

From the article on the CFACT website: Continue reading

Complex Digital Sales Tax Worthy of Veto

By Steve Haner

Pick any member of the General Assembly at random, stop them in the grocery store for a chat, and quiz them about the digital sales tax they approved a week ago Saturday.  It will quickly become clear that most had no idea what they were voting for when they approved it.

What will the tax add to the cost of your Amazon Prime or Netflix? (For most, 6-7%.) Will the tax be collected on both the monthly fee and on anything extra you download (Yes) Will it add to the cost of preparing your tax to file online, your annual lease for Microsoft programs on your laptop or your security system program? (Yes, most digitally-based services will all be taxable to individuals, and many of them will be taxable to businesses. If you are doing something on a computer or phone that costs money, it is likely to become taxable.) 

Even for a business, if some software package its employees use includes a combination of online services, will it owe tax on the entire package? (Yes, unless the vendor is willing to break apart the bill, which many may refuse to do. That is because of the new language about taxing bundled services.)  If an out of state vendor does not add tax to the invoice, taxpayers will be required to calculate and pay it as a use tax, with auditors ready to pounce if they don’t.   

Think of engineering, law, banking, or medicine.  So many of their processes are now controlled by expensive software, most of which is about to be 6-7% more expensive.  At the shipyard in Newport News, paper blueprints and printed job instructions were replaced with tablets and digital design programs years ago.   Continue reading

War on Fossil Fuels Reaches Court of Appeals

By Steve Haner

A climate alarmism publicity stunt masquerading as serious litigation had a hearing in front of the Virginia Court of Appeals on Monday, seeking to revive its rejected petition to shut down the fossil fuel industry in Virginia. Why? Because some of the plaintiffs suffered from heat exhaustion while exercising on summer days, and two of them got Lyme Disease after tick bites.

The suit was last discussed on Bacon’s Rebellion when it was filed in 2022. Later that year a Richmond City Circuit Court judge accepted the state’s motion to dismiss it on summary judgement, citing the doctrine of sovereign immunity. It was an appeal of that dismissal which was before a panel of the appeals judges, covered only by Brad Kutner of Radio IQ.

The appeals court is being asked to reinstate the case, which is seeking aggressive if poorly defined relief. Basically, the original petition seeks to repeal Virginia’s Gas and Oil Act and reverse long-standing policy decisions in favor of developing energy resources. It seeks to prevent the state regulatory agencies from allowing any new fossil fuel infrastructure of any kind, presumably from pipelines to coal mines to gas stations to power plants.

The stages and pleadings of the Virginia case are documented by a website tracking it and a handful of similar cases around the nation, with the same basic arguments and a common set of lawyers. So far, the plaintiffs have seen some initial success only in Montana and Hawaii. Their federal level suit is being actively opposed by the Biden Department of Justice. Continue reading

Correction: SMR Bills Cover Both Utilities

Friday’s report that the General Assembly voted to allow early cost recovery on small modular reactors only for Appalachian Power Company was in error.  The Senate version of the bill approved March 7 was language applicable solely to Dominion Energy Virginia. A substitute that removed Dominion from the bill was rejected.

The error was entirely due to inattention on my part. Frankly, it is a message I need to stop trying to write about live legislation if I am not on the ground at the Capitol or glued to the broadcasts. Two other reports on digital outlets which I had questioned (in the comments) got it right while I got it wrong. For that most of all, I apologize. Continue reading

The Sausage Factory Taxes the Digital Economy

By Steve Haner

The Virginia General Assembly has now jumped into the brave new world of taxing the digital economy, but the sales tax provisions it adopted in the budget conference report Saturday are not the same ones that appeared in earlier budget versions. The cabal of tax raisers in the secret final negotiation got creative.    Continue reading

See, Hear, Speak No Evil on Four Whale Deaths

The Daily Press credits Jennette’s Pier for these two photos it published.

Another whale has turned up dead on a beach, the fourth found on Virginia or North Carolina beaches within one week, several within sight of Dominion Energy Virginia’s offshore turbine project.  This one was identified as a juvenile sperm whale and is the furthest from the project site.

In all the news coverage so far, no intrepid reporter has told their viewers or readers what (if anything) is going on out in the ocean on the construction site. Dominion’s federal license allowing “incidental take” of marine mammals began its five-year effective period in early February. It would be fair to ask the utility if contractors are actively surveying the sea floor with sonar at this time or doing any preliminary pile driving. Continue reading