- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, continues to peddle scary stories about the dire things that will happen if voters don't volunteer to send more money to Richmond by approving an increase in the state sales tax, and agree to a new regional taxing authority, too. The other day, he gathered the kiddies by the campfire and warned that companies "will not continue to expand here" and that Northern Virginia "would not enjoy economic recovery" unless taxpayers further impoverish themselves by saying yes to yet another tax, and yet another means of collecting it.

The Halloween season might be the right time for scary stories, but it's just a bit over the top to insist, as Mr. Warner unctuously does, that an economic recovery is dependent upon higher taxes. Exactly what economic school of thought is that, Mr. Governor? Didn't that idea get tossed in the dust bin of history about the time the Berlin Wall came down?

Mr. Warner intimates that the tax increase he wants and the new regional taxing authority are the only way to deal with the growing problem of an inadequate transportation infrastructure that is increasingly unable to cope with the burgeoning population growth of Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties. However, this ignores the bloat in Richmond that Mr. Warner and his pro-tax allies continuously gloss over or refuse to address.

To be sure, Mr. Warner deserves some credit for announcing last week that he plans some cut backs, such as motor-vehicle services. But even that short changes taxpayers.

However, rather than perform tough, much-needed cost-cutting of wasteful and unnecessary state programs, including the millions spent on corporate welfare, Mr. Warner's solution is to put his hand out and demand more money. Despite the efforts of responsible leaders like Govs. George Allen and Jim Gilmore to rein things in, Virginia's government has grown significantly over the past decade, and spending on such things as education has more than doubled. Property taxes have multiplied outrageously and a good part of the hated car tax remains in effect, apparently for the duration. The problem is not a lack of money, but a lack of restraint on the part of the big spenders in Richmond.

Virginians should remember, too, that the amount at issue is by no means inconsequential. Over the next 20 years, the proposed tax increase is estimated to be worth at least $5 billion to Richmond. And most crucially, the new taxing authority that's currently gestating could quickly grow into a large, ever-more-rapacious entity that demands much more if it's not stopped.

Anyone who imagines that Mr. Warner's tax increase is going to be a one time thing, or that his new taxing authority would never make additional demands, is living in an alternate universe. Mr. Warner should be more honest with voters and voters should ask themselves some hard questions before they come to a decision in November.

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