- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

Gov. Mark R. Warner's announcement earlier this week that the Virginia state budget was anticipated to be at least $1.5 billion in the red was met in the usual quarters with talk of doing "the responsible thing" that is, raising taxes on Virginians. There is talk of "restructuring Virginia's tax code," of new "sin taxes" on tobacco and alcohol, and other such means of pulling more feathers off the goose. But the truly responsible thing, as even Mr. Warner has hinted, is to throttle back excessive state spending, which has risen by almost 40 percent in just the past four years.
The typical Northern Virginia family is forced to send Richmond about $2,000 annually, and that's on top of the federal tax burden. Then they must pay the petty taxes of daily life state and local sales taxes, motor fuels taxes, title taxes, property taxes, etc. Add all that to the high levels of federal income tax, and many middle-class Virginia families find they have lost nearly 40 percent of their total income to taxes. It is well past time to stop this extortionate level of taxation by saying no to ever-increasing demands for more.
In Virginia, taxes have been increasing 20 percent faster than incomes, and in Northern Virginia's fast-growing Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties, real estate taxes have been jumping by 10 percent or more every year. While this reflects the increasing value of homes, it still means that taxpayers must come up with yet another $1,000 or more (sometimes a great deal more) to pay off their property taxes without benefit of compensation by an increase in their available income. Often, they must either tap their savings, or borrow against the equity of their property, in order to satisfy the tax man. Yet, Virginia wants more.
Meanwhile, the economic downturn since September 11 has cost state residents their jobs in alarming numbers about 40,000 since last summer. How does raising the tax burden on the remaining workers at a time of economic uncertainty and pouring that money into government coffers translate into new jobs and the renewed economic activity that Richmond desperately needs to keep the tax flow coming in? More people in the poorhouse does not equal fiscal solvency.
It's worth being precise here, as well, about the purported "needs" that are supposedly in danger of not being met if Virginia taxpayers aren't forced to dig deep. The pro-tax chorus implies that widows and orphans will starve, children will be abandoned, schools neglected, and so on. In point of fact, real per-capita spending on welfare programs in Virginia has increased by two-thirds since 1997, and spending on education has increased by a munificent 100 percent. At what point is enough enough?
Vital services are not being underfunded. Government bloat and corporate welfare (such as the egregious Center for Innovative Technology in the Dulles corridor) are bleeding state coffers dry. It is these programs, personnel and cozy relationships that need to be restrained or better yet, eliminated.
Yet, the old scare tactics about having to "cut back" on police, emergency services personnel, DMV staffers and education are already being trotted out. Virginia has more than enough money to fund those things, however. It is the other programs that politicians and special interests want to protect, and they expect you to subsidize them at the expense of your family's financial security and well-being.
Mr. Warner has said that "Some institutions and agencies will close. Some funding streams may disappear. And there will be more layoffs… some programs and agencies will need to be reduced substantially, fundamentally altered or eliminated entirely."
We hope to take him at his word.

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