Your Clown Show at Work

Transportation tax plan on fire!!

The General Assembly’s transportation-tax compromise may have a problem even bigger than the fact that it raises taxes to build a transportation system for the 20th (not the 21st) century: It may be unconstitutional.

Paul Goldman, former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, and Norm Leahy, conservative pundit and editor of, have joined bylines in the Washington Post to argue precisely that. They write:

Virginia’s constitution is clear that the General Assembly can impose only uniform taxes across the state for similar activities. But the bill that emerged from the House-Senate conference committee last weekend … contains new provisions about taxation, some of which would effectively set up a two-tier system for residents in certain parts of the state. It’s difficult to see how some of these provisions could survive legal challenge.

Among other flaws, the legislation would require Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads localities to increase their sales tax to fund regional transportation projects. Also, the package would impose a “regional congestion-relief fee” in Northern Virginia, which would add $750 to $1,000 to the cost of buying and selling a home.

Richmond can pass statutes giving a locality the right to impose any of these four levies — but state lawmakers cannot impose the levy themselves. This would violate the “home rule” principle that so many around the state, particularly in Northern Virginia, have long endorsed.

Bacon’s bottom line:

This is egg in the face to the knuckleheads who cobbled together this monstrosity. The core fund-raising measures probably can be salvaged by excising the regional taxes and re-casting them as measures that localities can enact voluntarily. Of course, local politicos will not enact the taxes. They want the revenue only if the General Assembly takes the heat.

Really, this funding package is such a botch job that legislators need to go back to square one and start over. User pays, anyone?


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13 responses to “Your Clown Show at Work”

  1. Cities and Towns and some countries (like Fairfax) have the right to levy taxes that other counties not.

    For instance, Fairfax can levy an income tax and about a half a dozen Northern Virginia counties have chosen to implement a 2.1% tax on gasoline sales.

    It might well boil down to how “dillon” the law is. Does it say “you must” or does it say ” you may”?

  2. wait a minute…. didn’t Cuccinelli, the AG weigh in on the MedicAid part to say that their initial approach would not pass Constitutional muster and he also said he was opposed to the transportation package itself and he never indicated that parts of it were unconstitutional?

    The RPV is a mess. Heckfire.. the whole national party is a mess nowdays.

    Interesting to this point that DJ has referred to them as the Clown Show but now Jim Bacon has joined in?


    1. Cuccinelli signed onto McDonnell’s original proposal. That proposal, as I recall, did not contain any provision for local taxes. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that Cuccinelli signed onto the local taxes. Cuccinelli did *not* endorse the compromise bill.

  3. Funny you mention the local income tax provisions as that section of the Code was repealed as part of this monstrosity.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    If this is unconstitutional where was the attorney general to so advise?

    1. I suspect that the House and Senate conferees declined to solicit the attorney general’s opinion on the matter.

  5. reed fawell III Avatar
    reed fawell III

    This all strikes me as quite remarkable.

    In Richmond at least the legislature and Governor talk to one another long enough to pass bills, however wobbly those contraptions might be.

    Here, in our nation’s capital just down the road, our elected officials yell, groan, and grimace at one another, as we tumble into the graves those very same elected officers dug for us (their constituents) the year before.

    This should be a Broadway musical. A updated vision of an old favorite. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. But where’s Plautus?

    We need him. There’s nothing left to do for the moment but laugh.

    1. Given the amount of gas these clowns put out, the question should be where is Flatus not Plautus.

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    Just drove 68 miles from Flagler Beach to the airport in Jacksonville. We though Jacksonville at the height of rush hour. Never had to drive under 60 mph. God, this must be what it’s like to live in Richmond!

  7. DJRippert Avatar

    Bacon and I may disagree whether this abortion of a transportation deal ought to pass (me – yes, Bacon – no), we both finally agree that our state legislature is a Clown Show.

  8. Cities and Towns and some countries (like Fairfax) have the right to levy taxes that other counties not.

    What does that have to do with ‘authorities’? If the GA can’t levy the taxes then the deal is dead. Each entity would have to pass the taxes which could very well require a referendum because the money isn’t for strictly local use.

    1. here’s an example of a locality that can levy a tax that not all other ones can:

      ” Fredericksburg is one step closer to better enforcing the collection of the cigarette tax from city businesses.

      The City Council approved two ordinances Tuesday- one to formally join the Northern Virginia Cigarette Tax Board and one to change the city code that would bring the city in line with the tax board’s regulations.

      The city takes in an average of $550,000 per year from the 31-cent cigarette tax.”

      so I’m pointing out that the idea that localities cannot be “two tax tiers” is not totally correct.

      I also pointed out down thread how NoVa/ Stafford/Fred/Spotsy do already levy a 2.1% gasoline tax that is administered and appropriated by an authority – the PRTC.

      the PRTC is done such that money in excess to VRE needs DOES go to each locality.

      There are regional water authorities that work the same way they essentially collect taxes from a number of jurisdictions to then operate a regional facility that benefits the member jurisdictions.

      Any legal decision that outlaws such arrangements needs to be pretty careful not to also end up, for instance, outlawing PRTC and I can tell you if a decision also affected PRTC – there are a good number of conservatives down our way that would kill that authority in a heart beat if they could.

  9. I guess I’m amused… a little

    McDonnell was not only in favor of a tax increase all along but ones that would not be user-pays. First the alcohol stores then the oil/gas leases.

    so it’s not like he wasn’t looking for more tranpo revenues from the get go. I think he was focused on it from the beginning not a last minute swerve ……

    and this is not like a small sideways step – this is a major deal in terms of a General Assembly who spent the last 25 years routinely swatting down democratic proposals to add a puny nickle and/or index.

    And McDonnell knew this – he knew that getting something through the GA would require the Dems and enough GOP to prevail and he also knew a lot of GOP would never agree.

    this was an exquisitely planned effort.. not seen since the likes of….. well…ObamaCare and before that, Medicare Part D.

    All this talk about VMT and in-car GPS… etc… McD figured out how to do what neither Kaine nor Warner did – an end around the GOP in the HD.

    this was not an abortion – it was a masterpiece.

    Definition of MASTERPIECE
    : a work done with extraordinary skill; especially : a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement.

    I still think that if the regional taxes are found unconstitutional, it was not an accident

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