Wednesday, May 17, 2006

TC Attacks B-types for sensible resolution

Over at TooConservative, Vincent launches another of his patented hit pieces on his political enemies. And as usual, he misses both the point and the mark.

In a post he titles "Stirrup Breaks Tax Pledge", Vince comments on a vote at the Board of County Supervisors meeting yesterday, where the board voted to approve a request by the Bull Run Mountain Civics Association to raise their special assessment from $0.10 to $0.12, so they can make much-needed improvements to their roads. The proposal can be found HERE.

The Resolution was motioned by John Stirrup, because it was in his district. It passed Unanimously.

Some detail: Bull Run maintains it's own roads. Under an agreement entered in 1990, The county collects a special tax assessment on the property of the homeowners, and then returns the amount as a budget item. This simplifies and strengthens the cash flow, and makes it easier for Bull Run to borrow money and sign long-term contracts. But it does mean that if the Association wants to increase the money available, they need to get approval from the board.

In this case, they wanted to use a new road surface that would last longer than their gravel roads, at a cost of $1.3 million dollars. They also qualify for money from a county road fund if they adopt this plan.

No SANE person would find any reason to object to this -- Home owner's associations work for their members, and members increase dues in order to obtain direct benefits, in this case a better road.

But TC finds in this rather perfunctory act of civic duty a chance for a political cheap shot at two members of the board that are no friends of Sean, and therefore TC's mortal enemies.

So he attacks them for "raising taxes" after they signed a "no tax pledge", thusly:

Stirrup said they needed more money for roads because even though rising property values had doubled the tax revenues per home since he took office, the amount wasn’t enough to keep up with rising costs (you know, inflation!). So Stirrup moved for, and Stewart seconded, a 20% increase in the tax rate in addition to the higher taxes due to rising home values. Most homeowners will pay almost $80 more a year due to the tax hike.

It is true, 12 cents is 20% more than 10 cents. And it is true they will pay 80 more a year. And this is certainly a "tax".

But a "principled conservative" would not stand in the way of a group of people asking to raise their own taxes to pay for their own roads. And a rational adult would never see a vote on this resolution as a violation of a tax pledge.

Now, I oppose tax pledges -- I'm a limited-government conservative, not a "lower my taxes" conservative (they work out the same, but I believe the focus should be on restricting government, not on taxes). But allowing people to raise their own taxes is a good, principled, conservative position, endorsed by the founding fathers.

And in this case, to oppose the resolution would be to deny the civics association the money they needed, just because they have to get board approval for it.

I can assure you that if Stirrup and Stewart had voted AGAINST this, TC would be mocking them for their stupidity.

TC closes by attacking Stirrup for suggesting a use for some $400,000 dollars in a new program Stirrup attacked as wasteful just one month ago.

To make matters worse, Stirrup promised to seek the spending of $400,000 of taxpayer money from a new country program he voted against establishing last month saying it was a “waste” and “fat.” Stewart supported him in this promise as well.

Why do “principled conservatives” love to spend money, but hate to take the heat when it comes to tax rate and budget time? Look at Washington, Richmond and now Prince William for a clue.

Once a program is approved, there is no reason not to try to find some good use for the money in the program. Now, I have no idea whether this particular bit of spending Stirrup wants is a "good use" or a "bad use", because TC could care less about WHAT the spending was for, so intent is he on attacking the people doing the spending.

TC closes with his patented hit piece with his patented divisive labelling: " Come on Group B-lets stop the hypocrisy.".

At least he used "hypocrisy" right this time. Credit given where Credit due.

Update: Vincent has suggested that some comments on his thread were too emotional and not factual. While I see no factual errors here or there, I believe this post to be overwrought with observations of a personal nature.

In the 1st sentence, I should not have said "as usual", as it implies a personal defect -- I should stick to the facts of this specific instance.

Later I said a "rational adult would never see", implying that TC was irrational. I should have said "I don't see how a rational adult would see".

Where I said "because TC could care less about WHAT the spending was for, so intent is he on attacking the people doing the spending.", that is a statement of motive, and I have no way of knowing his motive. I should have said "because TC did not provide the facts needed to make an informed judgment. He simply used the occasion to attack the people doing the spending."

I apologize to TC for the overly personal items, and hope the corrections meet his approval. I am not changing the comments regarding hit pieces and name-calling as they are factual descriptions of items, not personal attacks.

12 comments:

Corey Stewart said...

Thanks, Charles. I would also note that Stirrup and I voted in favor of creating this transportation program and in favor of transportation spending in general. What we voted against was yet another tax increase. We did so because the budget continues to grow in non-target areas, such as human services, and because the Board, despite attempts by Stirrup and myself, never asked county staff to develop a budget that did not include a tax increase.

Mitch Cumstein said...

It seems, Charles, that we are in agreement on the issue of tax pledges. This issue is a clear example of a situation where increasing a tax rate is both responsible and necessary.

So, my question for Corey and John is this:

Knowing that situations like this can and do commonly occur, why sign a pledge stating that you will never support a tax increase?

Furthermore, Corey, I don't think it's reasonable to simply tell the County staff to develop a budget that includes no additional tax revenue. If there are areas of the budget that you believe should be held in check, reduced or even eliminated, address them. Don't leave it to others, stick your neck out on those programs that shouldn't be funded by the taxpayers. It's the responsible, if not politcally expedient, way to go. I think you'll find that people will respect that, even if they disagree.

Greg L said...

Thanks for an analysis of the facts rather than leaving that terribly dissapointing article on TC as the only discussion on this topic. Once again, you're providing some of the best PWC political commentary available anywhere.

Charles said...

Mitchm,

Every year Sean and the majority of the board direct the staff to write a budget using the 5.9% tax increase.

Why is that different from asking them to write a budget using a 0% tax increase, or a 10% tax increase?

In all cases, someone is directing staff to use a specific funding level and show what they would do with the money.

Charles said...

To make that crystal clear -- Sean a couple of years ago made a promise, to hold tax assessment increases to less than 6% a year.

And every year, rather than going through the budget and telling the staff what he wants to cut to keep that pledge, he simply tells the staff to put the budget together enforcing his pledge.

If Sean had promised to hold tax assessments to less than inflation, would he be wrong to ask the staff to put together a budget that did that?

Do you think that Sean chose 5.9% because he did months of careful analysis and determined that 5.9% was exactly what was needed to properly fund the budget?

If the staff started with a zero-baseline budget, they could show us what we would get with no tax increase, and then show us what we get if we DO a tax increase. Then we the voters would know why our taxes were going up, and the supervisors could make informed choices as to how much the increase should be.

The Bull Run proposal shows exactly how that would work. BR was limited to a fixed tax rate. They were told to put plans together based on that fixed tax rate. They did so, and found it wasn't enough. So they proposed raising the tax, and showed what they would get by raising the tax.

If you look at the proposal (I linked to it above) you'll see the two alternatives, with and without a tax rate increase.

The supervisors could look at those two alternatives, and decide which they supported.

That's all I want -- to see the supervisors with some input they can really use to determine what varying tax rates will give us.

The argument against this approach is likely that it is hard enough to put together one budget, without having to do two.

But it's not really a second budget. You put together the 0-tax-increase budget, and in doing so you're throwing ideas overboard (just as I'm sure the staff did to come down to the 5.9% increase). When you are done, you take all the stuff you threw out, and prioritize it in a list, with how much each item ADDS to the tax rate.

You send that list, and the supervisors can choose how many of those are worth the extra tax cost.

Mitch Cumstein said...

Charles,

I have no objection to what you propose. I know that in some instances, certain groups within the County offer several proposals with dreams, nice-to-haves, and bare-bones minimum requirements to meet regulations and service levels.

My issue with this is the dynamics of "the pledge" and the desire for a better focus on spending as opposed to simply the tax revenue. Anything that brings the question around to the important issue is ok by me.

James Young said...

That's funny, "Mitch," because I have been making that point for literally years. Yet you still persist in claiming that I'm not meeting your standard, which seems singularly malleable.

Charles said...

COrey, thanks for the additional info, I didn't know what the specific issue was regarding the 400k. I am used to democrats using a vote against a bloated budget in campaigns saying good republicans voted against any good thing in the budget -- I'm just not used to republicans using that tactic against their own.

Greg, thanks for the kind words.

Mitch -- yes, we are in agreement, much for the reasons you state, although I have a more basic, and naive, view -- if a candidate articulates their vision, and it is one of limited government, then the only question is, can I trust the person?

If I can, I don't need a pledge to know they will decide based on a solid set of core principles. And if I can't, the pledge is useless -- see how Kaine turned on a dime to raise taxes after going so far as to call Kilgore a liar for saying Kaine would raise taxes.

The pledge says that you can see all possible futures, and in none of them would a tax increase be the right thing to do.

Good conservatives aren't against taxes, we just think taxes are generally too high, because government just does too much. And if you start with "here's a pile of money, want to give some back?", you will never get the limited government we need -- you have to say "here's too small a pile of money, how will you make it work, and if you can't come back and we'll see what we can do".

Mitch Cumstein said...

Charles:

I understand your point, but I prefer a different approach vis-a-vis the role of government. I don't buy into what I will call the "Three Bears" concept of taxation, i.e. too high, too low, just right. Just how much we should be taxed is relative, based on what one believes the role of government should be. Simply saying that taxes are too high just doesn't cut it, unless you define the areas where revenue is being spent where it shouldn't be.

I don't disagree that government can and should be made smaller at all levels. But we need to have the debate where it belongs: with spending.

Mitch Cumstein said...

Jim:

No, you're not meeting my standard. And that's because you continue to harp on taxation without discussing the validility (or lack thereof) of the spending that accompanies it.

In truth, much of our continuing war of words is about tone as much as it is substance. I could be much more open-minded about your views if you weren't always in attack mode (against me or, more often, my friends.).

Charles said...

Mitch, for me the reason I say taxes are too high is because I see government doing too much -- it was in that tone that I said Republicans generally say taxes are too high -- it is a rare government that has done all it can to control spending.

However, I have supported increases in HOA fees in my HOA board, because I could see all the bids for services and I knew what the homeowners expected and I knew we needed extra money to provide those services (it's amazing how much it costs to run even a small pool).

But I always fought the urge to run out and get things fixed quickly, I fought the proposals when I thought companies were padding their services, I did my homework, and I saved our HOA money.

I left the board this January after 6 years, and three months later they had built a lovely new rock wall that I had opposed because, while it was a great-looking wall, and worth every penny, I didn't think we needed such a lovely wall in a parking lot the few people used.

I'm not saying they were wrong on the wall, it's just an example where some thought "only the best" -- I can see how easy it is to spend other people's money.

Thank you for participating in this discussion.

Anonymous said...

The issue here is that the community at large did NOT ask for the tax increase - in fact better than half of the homes are on state maintained, paved roads. These people have been paying this special road maintenance levy since its inception in 1990, and have realized not one benefit from it because they don't live on the gravel roads. Their state tax dollars pay to maintain the roads they live on.

The Bull Run Mountain Civic Association board, which represents the majority of its members - but NOT the majority of the residents - is behind this tax increase. Most of the residents, even now, are completely unaware of this increase and the fact that the Board of Supervisors approved it last month. There are some serious misrepresentation issues here, which are about to be addressed.