By Don Rippert
Promises, promises. As Virginia’s new Democratic majority in the General Assembly starts to take power, three issues emerge. First, many of the winning Democratic candidates promised deeper and broader social benefits from the state. Expanded Medicaid, more money for K-12, more money for higher education, more money for green initiatives, etc. Second, few of the winning Democratic candidates spent any time describing just how these expanded social benefits would be financed. Politics as usual. Third, regardless of their expressed political philosophy, the vast majority of Virginians do not want to pay higher taxes. What now? Will the Democrats stick with reforms that don’t require new taxes or move into change areas which can only be implemented with “mo’ money”? If the latter, will the Democratic majority transparently raise taxes or engage in opaque budget trickery?
Do pass go, do not collect (higher taxes of) $200. The winning Democratic candidates in the 2019 election made a bet. They bet that loathing for Donald Trump would be enough for the Democrats to pull off a trifecta – control of the house, senate and governorship (already in place before 2019). Vague promises around gun control were easy to make. Most Virginians support at least somewhat stricter gun laws and those new laws cost virtually nothing to implement. Senate Majority Leader Sen Dick Saslaw, D-Mecklenburg, has already patroned five potential gun control bills. No doubt gun control legislation will pass. Minimum wage increase? Politically easy. While such an increase is fraught with possible economic downside it requires no new taxes to implement. There is a high probability that increases to the state minimum wage will pass. But what about the promises to improve healthcare, transportation, education and the environment – promises that cost money to keep?
Don’t roll snake-eyes. Despite their public rhetoric to the contrary, a Trump re-election would not be the worst thing for Virginia’s Democrats in the General Assembly. In fact, it would be the best thing. If Trump is re-elected in 2020, the Dems would once again run to the limelight to cry their crocodile tears as they bemoan the ongoing disintegration of all that is good in America. Behind closed doors those crocodile tears would quickly evaporate. Four more years of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) would be a boon to the Dems in Virginia. A General Assembly majority across the 2021 and 2023 elections would be all but guaranteed. No doubt another Democratic governor in 2021 as well. But what if Trump loses? What if Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg becomes president? No more TDS in 2021. In fact, more likely the onset of xDS where x=the initial of the Democratic president. The Democratic trifecta in Virginia could be short lived. Dems have to know that the 2020 General Assembly session is not the time to raise taxes. Could you imagine being a Democratic incumbent delegate in 2021 running against a tsunami of Warren Derangement Syndrome after having voted to raise taxes less than two years prior? Buh bye.
Rip’s Wrap. The 2020 General Assembly session will steer far clear of any legislative initiatives that require much in the way of additional government revenue (i.e. higher taxes). There’s too much at risk at the national level. Every Democratic candidate for president is clamoring to raise taxes If one of them gets elected there will be a major backlash against big government tax-and-spend politicians. Remember that Obama’s election on a platform of bigger government and higher taxes in 2008 spawned the Tea Party of 2009.
Initiatives that get funded opaquely through hidden higher prices rather than taxes will be on the table. Northam has already gone down this path by funding Virginia’s contribution to Medicaid expansion through a tax on hospitals. I guess the largely not-for-profit hospitals will somehow eat that tax without passing it on. Demanding more green energy from Dominion for example or raising the minimum wage allows for the costs to be opaque. Voters don’t throw out politicians over taxes they can’t see.
Virtue signaling will be what the Dems use to appease their base. Whether “one gun a month” lowers gun violence or not is a matter of conjecture. NPR-affiliate WCVE says in reference to the previous one-gun-a-month law that was repealed, “WCVE could only obtain federal firearm trace data back to 2006 but is seeking that data going back to 1993 when the [original one-gun-a-month] law went into effect. The data we have shows little difference in the number of Virginia guns that were recovered in other states prior to and after the law was repealed in 2012.” Expect “one gun a month” to pass in 2020.
The odds of an overt tax hike of any significance coming out of the 2020 General Assembly session, either immediate or deferred, are minimal.There are currently no comments highlighted.