- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

RICHMOND — State lawmakers can rule out Virginian’s offering up more of their hard-earned money to fix the $1.4 billion budget shortfall Gov. Tim Kaine announced this week.

At least that is what a peek at the so-called “Tax Me More Fund” suggests.

Since its inception in 2002, the fund has collected a total of $10,217.04.

It was established a year after Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee challenged proponents of higher taxes to contribute to a similar program when he was governor of Arkansas.

Both programs provide generous taxpayers with a way to contribute more of their money into the state’s coffers and allow lawmakers to highlight the hypocritical nature of higher-tax advocates.

“It’s amazing how people want to tax other people for every idea they have, and they are not willing to step up to the plate themselves, said Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, Colonial Heights Republican and a sponsor of the legislation that created the Virginia fund. “It’s a real good way to make a point.”

Some years have been better than others for the fund.

Public generosity reached its high point in 2003 when Virginians forked over $6,602. The low point was in 2006, when the state received a measly $19.36.

“I’m sure it was put to good use,” said Joel Davison, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Taxation.

Told about the donation total in 2006, Mr. Cox said, “Wow, not a good year.”

In his book, “From Hope to Higher Ground,” Mr. Huckabee said that from 2001 to 2005, a total of 56 persons made contributions to the Arkansas fund, totaling $2,077.

“It was a potent way of pointing out the hypocrisy of the insincere vocal minority who proved by their failure to write a check that they wanted more taxes to be paid, but they wanted them to be paid by someone other than themselves,” Mr. Huckabee said in the book.

Delegate Jeffrey M. Frederick, Prince William County Republican, agreed.

“In 2004, you had the chamber of commerce and others saying they were willing to pay more,” the Prince William County Republican said, referring to a debate that year over raising taxes. “Well, funny thing is, they didn’t seem willing to put their money where their words were. They could have easily participated more in the Tax Me More Fund but didn’t. That’s because they didn’t really want to pay more. They wanted everyone else to pay more so they wouldn’t have to.”

During tax-increase debates in 2005, retired House Appropriations Chairman Vincent F. Callahan Jr., Fairfax Republican, said the fund revealed the will of the people.

“I chastise all others who want higher taxes that don’t contribute,” he said. “It’s hypocritical.”

When he proposed the bill, Mr. Cox predicted the program would generate somewhere in the ballpark of $50,000 a year. But it has never taken off and has provided ammunition for conservatives like Mr. Cox and anti-tax activists.

“When I polled my constituents, there was a small number of them who supported higher taxes,” Mr. Cox said. “So the theory is, if you want to impose your will on the majority you should be more than happy to step up to the plate and donate your money.”

So when House and Senate lawmakers gather in Richmond on Sunday to talk about the state budget, the Tax Me More Fund likely won’t be mentioned.

In fact, the fund is rarely mentioned — and no one has encouraged people to donate, despite some Democratic lawmakers calling for gas tax increases this year and other tax increases in previous years.

Gov. Mark Warner didn’t mention the program when he touted his tax reform package in 2004 that included raising more than a $1 billion through increases in the sales, cigarette and income taxes.

Even when it won some headlines, the program’s popularity remained low.

“The people of Virginia have voluntarily taxed themselves in the amount of 0.00000005 percent of Virginia’s budget since 2002, which is a good measure of their support for tax increases,” said Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, Fairfax County Republican.

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