Virginia legislators have only a few days left to pre-file bills for consideration in the next General Assembly session. And judging by a few of the bills on tap, the filing deadline can’t come soon enough.
Taxes are on a few worthies minds, including bills by Democratic Del. James Scott to change the state’s gas tax from a flat rate to a percentage rate. The general idea is to help keep the revenue flowing, and growing, even as fuel economy rises.
But if that’s too complicated, Democratic Del. Algie Howell proposes to hike the gas tax by ten cents and dedicate the new funds to road construction and maintenance…which is where the money is supposed to go anyway, but best not to leave matters to chance.
Or to other Democrats. Del. Kaye Kory wants to increase the amount of money the state spends on mass transit. Right now, the state’s transportation trust fund diverts just under 15 percent of its available funds to transit. Kory wants this raised to 19 percent. In other words, the learned Delegate wants those paying the gas tax to provide an even greater subsidy for those riding buses and trains.
But not all is bad news on the tax front. Among the more intriguing proposals is one from Republican Del. Manoli Loupassi – it’s a kind of taxpayers bill of rights that seeks to limit the amount of state spending to the previous year’s level, plus inflation and population growth. It’s not as tough as some measures in this vein, and it holds the real possibility that, if inflation does roar back to life, the state’s budget could grow just as quickly. Delegate Mark Cole has a somewhat similar bill in the hopper, but his would extend to local governments as well. Cole does offer an escape clause: if three-fifths of the state or local governing body votes to exceed the limits, they can. And thus are the spending ways of the People’s Republic of Arlington preserved…
There are also a few bizarre tax measures to watch out for, including another from Del. Kory that would put the state in the business of subsidizing renewable energy. Actually, this one might have legs, particularly if it can be sold as a job-creation measure. That’s usually all the cover Richmond pols need to do what the free market never would.
But taking the prize for the most blinkered tax cut idea so far is Republican Del. Dickie Bell, who wants to cut the corporate income tax a half-percent. A step in the right direction? Not so fast. The cut would only apply to “…certain small businesses that increase the number of their employees by a minimum of five percent over the previous year, for taxable years beginning on and after January 1, 2012.”
So we’ll cut your taxes, but only if you hire more people. If you can’t hire more people because your taxes are too high right now, sorry, you’re out of luck.
It’s going to be a long, strange session…