Wednesday, March 15, 2006 :::
Whitney linked to this Bart Hinkle op-ed on the latest budget tussle and I missed it. Well, time to catch up.
It may have been last year, or even two years ago, that someone at the TD wrote a very similar piece on John Chichester's history of saying "no" to various and sundry budgetary compromises. This time around, it's Hinkle giving us a history lesson on the nabob's nabob and his record of recalcitrance:
In 2001, budget negotiations broke down over the car-tax cut. Governor Jim Gilmore and the Republican-led House want- ed to increase the rollback of the despised tax from 47.5 percent to 70 percent. The Senate, led principally by Finance Committee chairman John Chichester, refused. The House made several attempts at compromise, submitting four different budget versions for Chichester's approval.
And in 2004...
Chichester insisted on jacking up taxes a remarkable $4 billion. At the time, lofty voices in the state's high councils were warning that tax increases were urgently needed to protect the state's bond rating -- and to shore up state finances that had been bled by weak economic growth. A marathon tug-of-war lasting 115 days ended with capitulation by House Republicans and a tax hike of $1.4 billion.
Now, for the third time (and with the third Governor) in six years, budget negotiations have hit a wall. Tim Kaine practically tripped over himself in his haste to propose a steep tax hike despite repeated campaign vows not to do so until the state had secured road funds against raiding for other purposes. He then threatened with reprisal Republicans who dared to voice doubts about the wisdom of his plans. Chichester, once again, is being Chichester.
I give the Senator credit...he is consistent. But his consistency is unidirectional...pointing always toward higher taxes and larger government.
This time, things might possibly be different. As I've said before, roads do not stir the blood like education, nor does road funding send the bond houses running for the downgrade lever. One of the more comical, and tragic, aspects about this latest impasse is that overall spending will go up quite a lot. Not as much as some would like. And not exactly in the areas some would prefer. And all of this occurs against the backdrop of a very large surplus.
But it is not enough. Billions upon billions more are needed for as many years as fancy allows. The only way, it seems, to get those billions is to raise taxes. Not shifting spending from one part of the budget to another. Not decreasing the increases in various programs. No. Only more money will answer. And the only thing that stands in the way is a bunch of Luddite House members...who have compromised each and every time there has been a demand for more revenue.
And still some persist in suggesting House Republicans are the uncompromising ideologues on tax issues. Those who hold that view would do well to review the history -- and return to planet Earth.
Ground control to Major Tom...
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 3/15/2006