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.

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