Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is Bob McDonnell considering a tax increase?

In the State of the State address the other night, the governor had this – and only this -- to say about taxes:
The budget that was waiting for me at 12:01pm on Saturday requires $4 billion in cuts.

Some say taxes must be raised – it’s unavoidable. Here’s what I say. I will work with you –Democrats, Republicans and Independents. We will meet and negotiate; there will be disagreements, and there will be compromises.

Virginians are struggling with the worst economy in generations. We will not turn our economy around by taxing Virginians more. To do so would ignore the indisputable truth that the fiscal fortune of any government is tied to the economic prosperity of its people.

 Therefore, if you pass a bill in this recession that raises taxes on the hardworking families of Virginia – I WILL VETO IT.

 And if you pass a budget embedded with those same tax increases – I WILL NOT APPROVE IT.

I find it hard to believe that McDonnell would seriously consider raising taxes. Given the choice between responsible, constructive governing and blind adherence to an ideology that teaches that taxes and government are always bad, a Republican that dreams of a future in his/her party will choose ideology every time.

And yet, McDonnell’s specificity of language is intriguing. Would he approve a tax that was not imposed on “the hardworking families of Virginia” – say, a gas tax, or an increased sales tax, or additional taxes and fees on business. Of course, ultimately, those taxes hit hardworking families, but one could at least argue that they are taxes actually levied on others.

After all, if the Governor meant all taxes were off the table, there was a more direct and clear way to say so, like “Read my lips. No new taxes!”

But he chose not to do so.

Could he be telling the General Assembly he would support a tax incre…er….revenue enhancement of some sort, if could be argued that the burden does not, somehow, fall on families.

I’m sure I’m off base. My Republican friends in the Commonwealth might be misguided and dangerous ideologues, but they are not stupid enough to fall for this.

But there is a $4 billion budget gap that McDonnell needs to close, and I am eager to see how the Governor solves this puzzle over the next couple of months by expense cuts alone, consistent with the promises of his campaign.

Friday, January 15, 2010

EXTRA! EXTRA! McDonnell renegs on transportation promises

Well, Gov-elect McDonnell has reneged on his promises to fix Virginia’s transportation mess.

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that this has happened!

Not that it matters much. McDonnell’s “plan” for transportation was always clearly intended as so much campaign fodder, and never intended as an actual and practical solution for the Commonwealth’s transportation issues.

Still, Bob McDonnell is responsible for his own actions, and reneging on a promise so central to his election before he is even sworn in is, frankly, inexcusable, even in these cynical times. But it won’t be the last promise on which McDonnell reneges, unfortunately, as most of his campaign was premised on presenting an image of himself completely at odds with the reality of who Bob McDonnell really is.

The trick for McDonnell, of course, will be to maintain his viability as a national candidate while delivering on his “Manchurian Candidate” role to remake Virginia in the image of Pat Robertson (it’s all laid out there in his thesis). To accomplish this, I suspect that much of the dirty work in the social arena will fall to Ken Cuccinelli, with McDonnell simply not interfering with Cooch and instead playing the role of “Moderate Bob” insofar as most citizens are concerned, with a healthy dose of winks, nods and coded language to the teabaggers he will need as he reaches for national office.

That’s what’s up, it appears, with McDonnell’s low key demeanor and overtures to Democrats heading into his inauguration.

Progressives are at an inherent disadvantage compared to Republicans when it comes to acting as an opposition party. Because we believe in the capacity of government to act as an agent of progress in society, we try to find areas of constructive compromise and cooperation with political opponents when they operate the levers of power, even at the expense of supporting policies we know to be wrong because they possess some good aspects, and even if short –term political objectives are impaired in the process.

While the reasons were certainly more complex, it was this general approach to governing that allowed Democrats to seek common ground with President Bush throughout most of his presidency, notwithstanding his record of lying and incompetence. It was only following Katrina that common sense took hold, although it was too late by then, and Democrats realized that they were doing long-term damage to the country by supporting Bush policies.

For Republicans, however, being obstructionist is not only entirely consistent with their philosophy that any government action is inherently bad, quite apart from the objectives and means of implementation of that action itself, but it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. This strategy, of course, has the added virtue of providing the opposition with short-term political gains, as people turn on the party in power because of its inability to deliver.

I’m curious to see how Virginia’s Democrats respond to the McDonnell/Cuccinelli Administration in Richmond and to their inevitable sacrifices of education, health care, and public safety at the altar of tax cuts, much as we see McDonnell toss transportation to the wolves. And I’m curious to see the response to Cuccinelli’s efforts to reverse what little progress Virginia has made in social areas, whether the right for a woman to control her own body, gay rights and other civil liberties as he pursues his narrow Evangelical vision of society.

I do not have high hopes.