- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

Pro-tax forces are turning up the heat in favor of the impending Nov. 5 referendum that would raise taxes on the average Virginia family by almost $100 annually. Unfortunately, some prominent Virginia Republicans notably Rep. Thomas M. Davis III and Sen. John Warner have added their voices to those in favor of funneling yet more taxpayer dollars into the maw of state government a government that has exploded in size over the past few years, it's worth repeating. Their actions will also empower a new regional taxing authority that could easily up the ante in future years.

Once established, a new tax or taxing authority is not likely to go away, or decrease its take. Voters will discover that it's much easier to enact a new tax than it is to get rid of it. The half-percent increase in the state's sales tax from 4.5 percent to 5 percent that's trotted out as an "insignificant means" of funding transportation improvements amounts, first of all, to a projected $5 billion over 20 years. Only a politician could describe such a sum as "insignificant." More ominously, the proposed regional taxing authority opens the door to further bleeding taxpayers with future levies when "urgent needs" pop up.

Students of history will recall that, when it was first proposed, the federal income tax was only going to affect "the rich" and would be "trifling" in any event. Within a few short years, of course, almost every working American was handing over a goodly portion of his or her earning to the government. Taxes, once established, tend to grow, not diminish.

"We're asking you to do something hard raise your own taxes," Gov. Mark R. Warner urged employees of Washington Gas in Springfield the other day. Mr. Davis who was at the governor's side, along with Sen. Warner seconded the motion. "I'm very tax-averse, but I support this referendum."

If voters approve the referendum, they will in effect be telling Richmond it's acceptable to continue spendthrift ways, and that taxpayers will always pick up the slack. No need to curtail wasteful programs or bureaucracies, including corporate welfare. And, the fact that aggressive developers such as John T. "Til" Hazel ardently support the tax increase as a means of compelling taxpayers to finance new road projects that will make their businesses more profitable (while making gridlock worse, thereby creating the basis for future demands on taxpayers to finance yet more construction), ought to tell Virginians all they need to know.

$94 the projected cost of the half-percent tax increase for the average Virginia family may seem like small change to six-figure governors, representatives, senators and rich developers. But $94 is a month's worth of baby food for a young couple, an electric bill for a senior citizen and a car payment for a struggling single mom.

Certainly, Northern Virginia needs transportation improvements. What Northern Virginians don't need are politicians sliding their hands into their wallets yet again.

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