- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

Virginians will at least have a say about whether or not their taxes go up that's the good news. The bad news is that, if the proposed increase in the state sales tax is approved in a statewide ballot referendum this fall, politicians in Richmond will not have to restrain their spending in order to provide basic services, such as transportation, which should be paid for out of what the state already extracts from taxpayers.
The typical Virginian must pay an annual state income tax of several thousand dollars, but the billions collected from it are apparently insufficient, at least when it comes to providing basic services. So politicians such as Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner have spent the past several months braying about the dire state of Virginia's piggy bank and hinting with ever-diminishing subtlety that the only way Virginians would ever see desperately needed new roads built and existing roads improved would be if taxes were raised. And now, the General Assembly has complied.
Come Nov. 5, voters will get to walk into the booth and "decide" whether they want to erect a regional transportation authority with its own powers of taxation to raise as much as $5 billion for highway construction something their already onerous tax burden ought to be funding. The alternative, of course, is continuing to pay taxes that are already too high, but getting little or no new road construction. That's a little like giving a condemned man the "choice" between the gas chamber or the electric chair. The outcome remains the same in either case.
"This is a historic step," crooned an ecstatic Mr. Warner following the General Assembly's approval of putting the tax referendum on the ballot. In one sense, he's right. By helping create the new taxing authority and "leaving it up to the voters," Mr. Warner can effectively raise taxes without taking the blame for doing so during the next election cycle. As M. Dane Waters of the Initiative and Referendum Institute told The Washington Post, the referendum mechanism "avoids the backlash. He can say, 'I trust the people,' but he's raising taxes." Exactly so.
Come November, Virginians need to ask themselves whether they're paying enough taxes already. They need to decide whether the solution to every "funding crisis" is not fiscal discipline in Richmond, but making the taxpayers assume yet another financial burden.


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