Dem Senators wisely move to change the spin: But why a gas tax proposal?

    168
    1
    SHARE

    by Paul Goldman

    Big Mac and Little Richard, aka Senators Donald McEachin and Dick Saslaw, smartly moved to try and reboot the budget debate, realizing the power-sharing argument was a loser with the public. You’ve got to love their asking Governor McDonnell to agree to reimburse UVA for the legal expenses incurred in the climate warming suit — that is inspired, even brilliant. Same for the ultrasound piece, another home run. Great stuff.  

    Overall, I must confess to thinking their list was too top heavy on transportation stuff, given the politics of the moment. In that regard, how does what mathematically can be spun as a big increase in the gas tax make political sense right now, thinking about Kaine in 2012 and T-Mac in 2013? Or the simple optics of the budget fight?

    Hello! First of all, it just gives McD an easy slap back. Secondly, it is way out of tune with the public; does $5 a gallon gas, which may be coming real soon to a gas station near you, not meaning something to the folks in the General Assembly? Does it have to get to $6?

    I get the good government side of things: you need to fight on principle and if you got to take a few political hits, then that’s life.

    But at the same time: the budget fight is 99% politics and 1% good government. That doesn’t make it wrong, but it is what it is.

     

    There is no chance McDonnell is going to agree to any gas tax increase of the size being floated by the Democrats. So what’s the point of floating it? You don’t get any advantage by being able to point to McD’s refusal in this area and say elect us, we will raise your gas taxes. The President of the United States, one smart politician, isn’t for raising the gas tax, even though federal money is key to roads. Maybe he is trying to tell everyone something right now?

    Fact: Right now, the public doesn’t want a gas tax increase of that size, and I am saying this is true AMONG KEY DEM GROUPS. In fact, the public doesn’t want any gas tax increase, for that matter.

    Senator Saslaw is a good guy, but he has been pushing a gas tax increase for years and every candidate statewide who has touched it has been defeated. Warner shrewdly went with a referendum.

    I can see the referendum idea – let the people decide. The referendum idea is what helped Virginia create what many felt was the best maintained road system of any state in the Union [we can argue whether it was true or not, but it did work for those areas in favor with the Byrd Machine.]

    My take: there is nothing wrong, or immoral, or even wishy-washy, about paying attention to political reality as you try to move things forward.

    Pushing for tax increases right now doesn’t help anyone but McDonnell and George Allen.

    That’s the reality. Dick Saslaw and others decided to break with the gas tax for the sales tax in 1986. They gave up a long-time bipartisan approach which would be seen as a huge mistake in the future. I said that at the time, the user fee concept was the superior politics.

    Welcome to the future.

    Big Mac and Little Richard can win the budget battle if they can get the public to focus on the good stuff in their letter to the Governor. I like the play, although honestly, I prefer my 99% budget solution.

    But including the gas tax strikes me as too much risk with no chance of reward. It has the potential of taking away from their smart move.

    However, at least the ball has been put into the Governor’s court.

    Let’s see what he does with it.

    • mechenvy

      I think the gas tax proposal is not a loser. It is a moderate, common-sense policy that addresses years of head-in-the-sand abdication of fiscal responsibility in Richmond. A few cents on the gallon is not a big deal nowadays, when prices fluctuate by nickels and dimes overnight because a butterfly in China contemplates sneezing. It will draw support from the left, the center and the remaining tatters of the moderate right. Anti-tax Luddites are always yelling about running government like a business. Every business I know has been raising prices and cutting services and quantity for years — but government is supposed to never raise prices again? The proposal, once again, is Democrats acting like grown-ups. It will drive a wedge between know-nothing far-right Republicans and chambers of commerce around the state.