Monday, February 25, 2013

Indignation in Virginia

Whew. This has not been a pleasant legislative session for anyone who thinks we're "Taxed Enough Already." Outbound Governor McDonnell emerges as the scapegoat behind a sneaky compromise strategy in which just a few key Republicans have been nudged off what bill readers inevitably come to think of as Our Team in the state legislature--different ones each time, so all those howlers branding this and that Republican legislator "worthless" are hereby declared unjustified. Bills this web site doesn't like, and other web sites bitterly hate, and legislators have said they'd hate too, have been enacted into law...

I think the Washington Post has the most clearheaded explanation we're likely to get:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/va-politics/va-lawmakers-approve-landmark-transportation-plan/2013/02/23/712969d8-7de4-11e2-82e8-61a46c2cde3d_story.html?wpisrc=al_lclpolitics

Landmark? Oh it's a landmark, all right. It may well set all-time records as having aroused the most rage among levelheaded bill readers, the most name-calling among people who usually keep it parliamentary, the most exchanges among e-friends along the lines of "You should talk about my Delegate/Senator/friend/relative...what price yours and that idiotic move on..."

So let me say this to everybody. We all know politics involves game playing, right? Games have been played. Legislators who are otherwise good people have been set up and used to support things that have probably made their own mothers want to pick up phones and scream at their office aides, "What are youall thinking?!"

Yes, Terry Kilgore supported that nasty ol' HB 2313...

http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+HB2313H4

...and yes, although I'd rather see budget cuts than tax increases, I do think that if tax increases had been necessary this would have been a better way to make them than many. I read the thing. It is messy. It is ugly. It is hard on all drivers. And I don't think it was necessary, actually...but I can see how, in the game of larger-scale politics, Republicans might have been pressured into acting as if it were necessary.

Once the terms of debate have been set to "If you don't like this scheme for raising taxes, let's see you write a better one," rather than "Should we raise taxes at all?", then, yes, HB 2313 becomes a good conservative bill because it's based on choices. Virginians who don't want to support this scheme can so vote by driving less, buying less gas, buying fewer cars...and buying less of anything in Virginia (although neighboring states tend to have higher sales taxes anyway, so that's kind of a self-defeating idea, even if the state line is within walking distance). People who are really frugal, or really poor, can safely and legally dodge the burden of these tax hikes. So there's both freedom and justice in it...as tax increases go.

I regret it, of course, as do the correspondents whose e-mail this morning contains headers like "worthless" and "not for dogcatcher."

Although this web site has tried very hard to read the text of bills before considering who's supporting which ones, to avoid looking at images of legislators during the session, and generally to stay out of the "good legislator, bad legislator" trap, there is a list of names that tend to cluster around bills this web site likes. If Delegates Bell, Crockett-Stark, Garrett, Gilbert, Johnson, Kilgore, Lingamfelter, Marshall, Orrock, Pogge, Ramadan, and Lopez (the token Democrat) agree on something, it just about has to be good. They are The Team. I wish all of them were related to me and not only two of them. And I've not enjoyed seeing how, time after time, pressure has been used to split The Team, get just one or two of them to oppose the others, and get conservatives to blast those individuals as RINOs when what we've seen over the long term is that each and every one of them has been set up as the RINO on something or other.

I would so much have preferred to see The Team stand up as a team and tell the tax raisers to go to, oh well, some place in some state where the voters have some use for left-wing ideas. There are just about enough of them, and they are just about good enough at their job, that they could probably have pulled it off.

I'm disappointed in The Team. I'm also disappointed in the correspondents who are wasting rage on a few specific individuals, instead of stepping back and looking at what's been going on behind the House and Senate floors. Right, you've vented...now can we start working with people who have been doing a good job, most of the time, to clean up some of this mess as Governor McDonnell leaves the political arena. Let's shift the focus back to how to cut the budget and taxes, instead of wailing about one tax hike against another, and maybe, just maybe, we may get somewhere.