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Avoid Burdensome Tax Increases And Reduce Spending!
An Open Letter to the Virginia General Assembly
February 3, 2011
On behalf of the National Taxpayers Union’s (NTU) 9,300 members in Virginia, I urge you to take advantage of this year’s legislative session to reduce spending and avoid burdensome tax increases.
Although Virginia’s fiscal policies are better than those practiced in many other states, including neighboring Maryland, there is still ample room for improvement. Virginia’s state and local tax burden per capita is the ninth-highest in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation. Also, the General Assembly has, for years, devised taxing, spending, and borrowing schemes to expand government by billions of dollars, especially for transportation projects. To move beyond this destructive cycle, the General Assembly should work to enhance tax competitiveness and keep the budget manageable. To reach these goals, several courses of action are necessary.
First and foremost, the General Assembly should reject proposals to increase taxes. One particularly troublesome example, House Bill 2341, would impose a new 20-cent per bag tax on plastic bags. Although some claim that this is an effort to protect the environment, in reality HB 2341 is an onerous tax hike (especially on working families) that makes shopping more expensive and diminishes manufacturing job opportunities. Moreover, the ecological benefit from this approach is questionable, as taxes on plastic bags in the District of Columbia and Seattle have had a negligible impact on cleanup efforts. Perhaps most ironically, these taxes have even resulted in consumers using bags that contain hazardous chemicals or collect harmful bacteria.
In addition to rejecting efforts to increase taxes, the General Assembly should reduce spending along the lines suggested by Governor McDonnell in his budget amendments for K-12 education, the state lottery, and public broadcasting. The General Assembly should likewise consider the Governor’s proposal to privatize the antiquated state-owned liquor store system.
Although everyone recognizes the importance of transportation in the Commonwealth, especially in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, that is not an excuse for massive spending increases or borrowing that will only lead to higher taxes in the long run. Instead, the General Assembly should more actively pursue public-private partnerships to repair, maintain, and build infrastructure. The Commonwealth is replete with projects, such as the Norfolk-Portsmouth Midtown Tunnel, constructed through such partnerships that meet critical transportation needs while reducing costs for taxpayers. Other tools such as life-cycle budgeting and technical auditing can help to ensure that funding is properly prioritized and economically efficient.
Virginians are counting on their elected officials to enact policies that will allow an economic recovery to gather strength, not hinder the prospects of growth and prosperity. NTU and its members across the Commonwealth stand ready to work with you toward achieving these vital ends.
CC: Governor Robert McDonnell