Thursday, November 15, 2001

They have a racket in Virginia. They call it a car tax. They send the bill. You send the check.
The exchange is only one step up from the street-level entrepreneurs who offer to protect your car while it is parked.
The money is easy in either case.
Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III promised to end the car tax by next year. The middle initial in his name must stand for “sorry.”
He is sorry. Government bloat is up, fleecing the citizens, too. So the car tax is expected to receive a reprieve.
Gov.-elect Mark R. Warner is treating the development as a housewarming gift. As a Democrat, he believes in the power of taxes to spread cheer, fix all social ills and save the state from West Virginia. The border is important to Virginians, mostly because of West Virginians’ dental problems.
State lawmakers blame the broken promise on the economy. They never would blame it on themselves. They get into public service to resolve incredibly complex issues. That turns out to be a reach, after they can’t even balance the books.
They beg, borrow and spend, and at the end of the day, they turn their pant pockets inside-out to show they are broke. That is your sign to be sympathetic.
The sympathy cuts their way, not yours, if you were overextended and decided to stiff them. The state would do what was necessary to collect, and with an attitude.
Lawmakers promise the world before each election. Alas, their world starts with your wallet.
Read their lips.
Their T-word is “tough.”
Tough luck, Virginians, as if the state budget is the state lottery, connected by a series of unlucky numbers.
The car tax is the insult to the budget’s injury. You are not obligated to take it personally, although they term it a personal property tax.
At least they leave your television sets and home computers off the tax rolls, possibly because no one in Richmond has thought of it yet.
They probably would tax your T-shirts if they could get an accurate count.
As a revenue source, a car is an easy target. It might as well come with a bull’s-eye on it in Virginia. The fees, charges and taxes are imposed just after the test drive from the dealer’s showroom.
Virginia adds a county sticker just to be thorough. The county changes the color of the sticker each year in a bow to art.
They hit you with taxes at the gas pump, too.
They see all the taxes as a favor. They are waiting. What do you say? Thank you, lawmakers. Would you like to contribute to their war chest?
You just knew the pace of the car-tax phaseout was too good to be true. The tax is 30 percent of what it was, still ample enough to feed the bureaucratic habit. The weaning process is harder than the suits ever imagined.
September 11 did not help either, if being heavy-handed is permitted. How do other states manage without a car tax? The mystery must be in Virginia’s financial books.
Mr. Warner is said to be planning to read through them. The plot thickens, as it were, except Virginians already are being prepped for the ending.
Darn. The state is hurting. How do you like that? The additional spending is going to public safety, thanks to the cave-dwelling nut case in Afghanistan.
He is still breathing, unfortunately, the same as the car tax. When he goes, does the car tax go, too?
Mr. Gilmore rode into Richmond with at least one idea that appealed to the masses. Now, as he readies to leave Richmond, he is scrambling to balance the budget and qualify what he meant in 1997.
The car tax is the mother of all taxes, to borrow the pet phrase of another nut job, the one in Iraq.
Virginia was counting the days to its end. It sure is a resilient sucker. Give it that.

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