Biggie-size my tax increase, please

By Steven Sisson

It's been a week to remember. 

There is no doubt that Virginia politicians are rewriting the book about breaking promises not to raise state taxes, first with the governor and now the leading Republican in the Senate. It's like an infection or worse, a virus. 

But maybe there is a medical explanation?  

Perhaps it is that taxing strain of influenza. The experts say it all may have started in California a few years back with a heavy rash - of spending. 

Last week, Sen. John Chichester, R-Stafford, unveiled a plan that would raise the sales tax, gas tax and cigarette tax. Believe it or not, the conservative's tax increases are two times the size of Gov. Mark Warner's tax-plan proposal. 

His tax increases are a whopping $2.5 billion! 

It looks like Chichester might be the latest tax-influenza victim, indeed. 

On the same day, Sen. Russ Potts, R-Winchester, fell ill after requesting a dollar increase with the cigarette tax while endorsing Chichester's tax increases. Potts is a former anti-tax-pledge signer who is now a born-again tax-and-spend follower. 

His style of politics is like the weather - or latest sports' line - in that it's ever-changing.  

I would advise the two new GOP patients to seek treatment at the supply-side isolation ward of the Ronald Reagan Memorial Hospital, where they can join fellow GOP General Assembly members Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, Del. Allen Louderback, R-Luray, and Del. Harry Parrish, R-Manassas, who are all suffering from the dreaded Mad Elephant's Disease.  

That's M-A-D, as in the mutually assured destruction of their party's philosophy. 

Supply-siders revisited 

Let's take a trip down memory lane: Because Chichester's evolution into a tax-and-spend politician has been truly remarkable. 

Back on Oct. 9, 1985, then-lieutenant governor candidate Chichester was singing another tune at an Arlington fund-raising luncheon for the GOP gubernatorial candidate slate.  

That's the day when Reagan endorsed Chichester for lieutenant governor, Buster O'Brien for attorney general and Wyatt Durrette for governor. 

Reagan said in his speech, "I've said it before, and I'll keep on saying it as many times as it takes: No matter how it's disguised or packaged, if Congress sends me a tax hike, I'll send it right back with a big veto written across it. And for those who are trying to torpedo tax fairness, let's remind them exactly what's on the line."  

Reagan reminded Chichester that day, "Any (tax) plan that is less pro-growth, any plan that is less pro-family, will be robbing America of the jobs and prosperity that are rightfully theirs." 

What do you think "The Gipper" would say about the recent Chichester tax-increase proposals? You know, this would have been a classic 15-second sound bite about the $2.5 billion in new taxes! 

In The (Richmond) Times-Dispatch recently, former Democratic Party of Virginia chairman Paul Goldman said, "All I can say is that in the last 20 years, he's gotten another $2.5 billion out of touch with the people of Virginia."  

Paul Goldman ran L. Douglas Wilder's successful campaign against Chichester in 1985 for lieutenant governor. 

As a conservative Virginia Democrat, I have to admit that I am somewhat gloating.  

I'm enjoying the implosion of the opposition that is happening only a few short years after becoming the majority party in Richmond. If I had predicted that conservative Virginia Republicans would be advocating tax increases several years ago, most folks would have laughed.  

Increases in the state sales, gas and cigarette taxes are unbelievable motivational tools for modern-day conservatives. Add the likes of Hanger's Internet E-commerce tax and Louderback's service-sales tax, and we are now talking about a group of Republicans that are completely out-of-control. 

There was probably a time when the moderate GOP politicians actually believed in their party's philosophy of lower taxes and limited government. They probably understood that people mattered first, and that promises were a sacred trust. 

After a spring primary against an anti-tax candidate, Chichester has been touting a tax-increase mantra. His only concern is that of the special interests and big business, obviously not the citizens of his district. But you thought he was a conservative?

The same can be said about Potts, Hanger, Louderback and Parrish. 

At one time, the GOP was monolithic with message and issues. But recently, the Virginia Republicans are looking more and more like the often-confused Democrats, who live to feud and fight about issues. There is a leadership void when the state party chair and leading state senator are not talking from the same script.  

Time and history can be ironic, wouldn't you agree?  

But the reality in this twisted blue dog tale is that the current batch of Virginia Democratic Party leaders and elected officials are first in line with a major tax increase. 

Virginia Democrats have never quite understood that the working class pays the bulk of the taxes. But Mr. Reagan understood that to stay in elected office.  

Factory workers and union members and small-business owners voted for Reagan religiously due to his stand against new and higher taxes. He changed everything. 

Back in the '80s, we called those folks Reagan Democrats. 

It was a Reagan political revolution.  

Working-class Democrats left the party because the party left them when it became the party of higher taxes. That's why we have airports, buildings, schools, aircraft carriers and possibly a new face on the dime replacing Roosevelt with Ronald Reagan.  

The political lesson to be learned is simply this: Lower- to middle-income workers will not tolerate higher taxes in bad economic times, nor will they put up with badly mismanaged government. 

And guess what, fellow Democrats?  

That's why we have a Republican majority. 

Like Lemmings jumping off a cliff  

Let's see if I have this right.  

The same old tired Democratic elected politicians that voted for the car tax in 1998 are now advocating the Warner tax increases. These elected Democrats knew the damage the car tax would have on the state budget back then, yet they have voted to increase state spending every year since. 

What a bunch of hypocrites! Cut the tax, spend more money and then request a tax increase - how about those rotten apples? 

But in fairness, we should probably include many GOP members with that bunch of hypocrites as well. Apparently, they all fall from the same apple tree. 

Back in 1998, the Senate voted 35-0, and the House 99-0, for the Personal Property Tax Relief bill. The Democrats hand delivered Big Jim "Deficit" Gilmore's campaign promise with little to no protection for the state budget and funding for Virginia's education system.  

Like Lemmings, they voted for the car-tax repeal.  

For the most part, these Democratic politicians were afraid the car tax would be used against them during re-election. And now they dare to call anti-tax-pledge signers hypocrites. 

It looks like the Democrats are doomed to repeat car-tax history.  

Yes, thanks to the Democratic Party of Virginia. Mr. Gilmore's campaign promise can be fulfilled this year when Warner's tax increases set in motion the car-tax repeal to the full 100 percent. That's when the bottom drops out of the state's general fund, and education funding drops to zero. 

Guess whom the public will blame for this financial mess? How about those Virginia Democrats! 

It's a budget buster. It's a sham. Its double-digit property-tax increases for those unfunded mandates that are coming back to you two- to threefold. This will be a Democratic tax initiative that started the whole mess with a little help from moderate Republicans. 

Warner's tax reform numbers do not fully fund education (and he readily admits that), and teachers will not receive their cost-of-living raises until 2005. But Warner does manage to pay off the remaining car tax and eliminates a good portion of death tax and food sales tax as well.

After three years without a cost-of-living raise, I'm wondering how Virginia teachers and state union members can justify that? Because in the end, Virginia educational funding will be the bridesmaid again - and not the bride.  

But don't worry about minor details like a state pay raise or educational funding.

Virginia politicians can always increase your taxes - again.  

After all, the public keeps electing these politicians with empty promises. Union workers will soon learn that blind loyalty and support will only get them so far on this political gravy train. 

Dueling Banjos, sort of 

How about those dueling tax reports?  

I've haven't seen this much paperwork floating around since the Pentagon Papers in the '70s.  

The Virginia Republican Party hired ex-Reagan appointee and former budget director James Miller to investigate Warner's tax plan. That's a big hired gun. 

Two weeks later, he distributed a 21-page report condemning the Warner tax increases. The Miller report indicated that the increase in sales tax would decrease earnings in the state's economy by $10 billion and eliminate 28,000 jobs. 

I could have completed the tax report with one sentence, i.e. "Read my lips, no new taxes," and for a lot less money.  

But the GOP has heard that one-liner before. 

Not to be out done, Warner countered last week with a 60-page tax-reform economic analysis and budget net-positive-effect plan that was prepared by a "team of economists."  

Another reason for the large report is that Warner's tax increases are harder to explain. Of course, you could use that on-line magic tax calculator to discover your Warner savings and avoid all that reading. 

The 65 percent of Virginians eligible for tax relief and threat of the AAA bond rating are the carrots on this stick. 

As far as that team of economists, I'm not exactly sure who they are. But an economic team, that just sounds so darned impressive. The gloom and doom future economic forecast must have been primed over the past year for this upcoming tax-increase proposal.  

It appears that Warner and his team must have based the economic report on an inability to control spending to fabricate that apocalyptic budget scenario. I call it the "sky is falling in" tax plan in order to fulfill Pie in the sky campaign promises. 

Warner's tax report is also available by e-mail or snail mail.  

Now that's convenient. 

By the way, who's paying for that state bill in these fiscally hard times?  

When the Chichester tax report is published and distributed, remember to ask for the "Biggie Size" tax increase before you order.  

I'm looking forward to the Hanger-Parrish and Louderback tax-increase bills as well.  

I better have that tax-flu shot soon. I say immunize me before the supply side runs out. This bipartisan taxing-influenza strain is out of control.