Tuesday, April 2, 2013

HB 2313: Governor's Substitute (Part II)

After reading http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?131+ful+HB2313H5 as best I could without clicking on all those dozens of links, I can report this much to you: The car licensing tax has been replaced by a gas tax.

Realistic? Existing cars don't pollute, nor do they crowd the highways, unless they're burning gas. So, yes, this version's even more realistic, and even more ethically acceptable, than a per-vehicle licensing tax. You can afford to keep that "showpiece" car in the garage, as long as you're not driving it.

The revised version of HB 2313 looks as if its goal is to collect a smaller amount of tax money, overall, for more specific purposes. It won't all be for roads, and most of it may be used in aid of northern Virginia, which already has plenty of roads and needs to learn how to use them not abuse them (as in: Centerville, or even Manassas, is not a suburb of Washington), and the places that really need roads (e.g. Nickelsville) may not get them. Still, at least Governor McDonnell's recommendation for HB 2313 looks as if it's more modest and more transportation-specific than the original version was. That's definitely an improvement, and a correction of what some correspondents hated about HB 2313.

Bad news? The sales tax has become more complicated, and looks as if it may apply to more people in more situations. Make life a little harder for Virginia businesses, why don't they?

There's a tax on "mobile homes," or trailer houses. I have a feeling that somebody from northeastern Virginia, where trailer houses are despised, put that in. Here in southwestern Virginia, some nice people have bought and maintained trailer houses, even made actual houses out of them over the years, to the point where sometimes it's hard to tell that a house used to have wheels on it. Not all trailer dwellers are in the lower income brackets. Many of the ones who are in the lower income brackets are retirees who don't want to waste their limited energy maintaining a full-sized house, and may have sold a big brick house and moved into a trailer house for that reason. Maybe they can afford an extra tax on the ownership and maintenance of a trailer house. But some trailer dwellers cannot, and the position of this web site is that a lot of poor people are being unfairly hit with a tax on a behavior that contributes relatively less to pollution and congestion than unnecessary driving does.

I, personally, think unnecessary driving is a sin, and driving alone when it's possible to share a motor vehicle is a sin. How much of the driving youall did during the past week was necessary, I have no right to say; that's between you and your consciences. Driving that is really necessary, and is competently done, might reasonably be considered virtuous or even heroic. I don't think most of the driving that is being done in Virginia these days is necessary. But this is a democracy, Gentle Readers. I think all of us could benefit from recognizing our fascist fantasies about imposing our beliefs on other people, hauling them out into the light, and consciously putting them in the same category with the dreams we may have had about jumping off the bell tower and flying. If I really want youall to pay a car tax, even if I were to be elected governor, I have no constitutional right to force that tax on you; I have to sell it to a majority of you, such that it could pass a popular vote.

This web site salutes all those who kept up the pressure and demanded at least a substantial amendment to HB 2313. This is the way the system is supposed to work. There are other things in Virginia law where I would have preferred to see the system work. Maybe youall now feel encouraged to turn your attention to some of them.