The Trash Tax Returns; Energy Price Hikes Ignored

By Steve Haner

Proving once again how rare are the new ideas, Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed Special Session budget amendments resurrect a possible state-collected solid waste tipping fee, which crashed and burned in 2002 after being successfully tagged a “trash tax.”

The proposal calls for a study to be completed by November 1, laying the groundwork to include the new levy and substantial revenue when the Governor tweaks the budget again before the 2021 Regular Session. When former Governor Mark Warner proposed this, at the Veto Session following the 2002 Regular Session, it would have raised an estimated $75 million annually.

Frankly, what the language calls for (a plan) is something the Northam Administration can just do. By including this directive in the budget document, all the stakeholders are forewarned and forearmed. What’s the plan for the money? “The plan shall include recommendations for the amount and structure of any proposed fee, and recommendations for use of any revenue that may be generated from such fee.”   

This would produce no revenue in the short term. Despite the absence of major tax increases, however, there are a couple of taxes or “revenue enhancements” included in his proposal. The Governor is altering, some say increasing, the brand new tax system for nicotine vaping products, and he seeks to extend for three more years the $20,000 cap on the amount of tax credit available for land conservation.

Here in the Age of COVID, there is growing evidence that vaping is a risk factor for a bad COVID-19 outcome, even in the young. I guess there is some nexus with the crisis. But how is restricting the land conservation tax credit a pandemic issue?

Future Energy Price Hikes Buried or Ignored By VA Media

As stated previously, the recent State Corporation Commission annual report on the electricity industry sparked far more coverage than it used to. But the part of the report looking forward to the rate impact of the Virginia Clean Economy Act ($660 per year on a moderate residential bill) got short shrift in many outlets. In just ten years Dominion Energy Virginia will spend tens of billions of dollars on wind, solar and storage, and charge us as well for retiring a number of still-viable fossil fuel generators.

David Ress at the Daily Press saw the lede and warned his readers. But you are fourteen paragraphs into the Virginia Mercury story on the same report before you see the expected price hikes mentioned. And the possibility is quickly dismissed with the following:

“The Northam administration and clean energy advocates, however, say the VCEA’s bill impacts will be far less or nonexistent as a result of fuel savings and energy efficiency measures.”

Right. An investment of up to $59 billion and no rate impacts. Sure.

The new openly Trumpian outlet The Virginia Star also buried the data with one short reference deep in the story, and didn’t connect it at all to the massive Green New Deal-style energy conversion, usually a ripe target for Republican discussion. It had quotes from Clean Virginia (it won’t be complaining about renewables) and Dominion itself. Hello. This is an election year, right?

Commercial and industrial rates are also going to skyrocket as this all goes forward, but the Virginia Business Magazine’s story on the report made zero mention of the VCEA-related cost projections. Finally, The Washington Post wrote nothing at all on the release, from any angle. Many Virginians remain as clueless as frogs in the slowly warming water.

Yes, Our Calhoun Had A Connection To That Calhoun!

In response to my report on former Alexandria State Senator Robert Calhoun’s recent death, and his instructive role as a moderate Republican who represented a liberal city, somebody asked, “Was there any relationship to U.S. Senator John C. Calhoun?” That Calhoun was an infamous defender of the Peculiar Institution of slavery in the political crises before the Civil War. I guess it’s just the times that somebody had to ask.

Bob Calhoun was indeed a relation but not a descendant, tracing his lineage to the fiery Southern advocate’s brother, William Calhoun, who died in 1840. An interesting connection but trust me, I know, Bob was a Lincoln man through and through.