In the world according to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, any major legislation that smells of bipartisanship must in and of itself be erroneous. After a transportation deal with support across all political aisles was reached on Wednesday by negotiators in the Virginia House and Senate, Cuccinelli idealogued against its purported components.
Cuccinelli said, “If reports are correct, this new bill contemplates a massive tax increase. In these tough economic times, I do not believe Virginia’s middle class families can afford massive tax increases…” What a “massive tax increase” is in the world of Ken Cuccinelli is open to speculation.
What isn’t open for speculation is Cuccinelli’s every public statement, from this moment until the final vote is cast for Virginia’s next governor, will be a calculated effort to win over the supporters that he’ll need to sit in the Executive Mansion next year (unfortunately for Cuccinelli, his arithmetic isn’t so good).
But if the new taxes coming out of the new transportation bill are true, then Cuccinelli may have a firm ground to stand on, for once. According to one source, the deal would ‘create’ close to $880 million a year once fully transitioned in to address the commonwealth’s new construction and roads maintenance needs. The revenue generated would come from tax increases on wholesale gasoline (don’t have a problem), diesel fuel (don’t have a problem) as well as increases in the state sales tax (have a problem), motor vehicle titling tax (iffy on this one), and audaciously, hybrid vehicle registration fees (I can see hybrid vehicle sales in Virginia already dipping).
Raising taxes on things like gasoline that will go towards repairing roads and new transportation projects makes sense: if so many Virginians didn’t drive, many of these transportation projects wouldn’t be necessary in the first place. Thus the gas taxes serve as a disincentive to drive.
But raising Virginia’s sales tax? Raising vehicle registration fees on vehicles which Virginia should be promoting (i.e., hybrid vehicles)? How do these two schemes make any sense in terms of addressing Virginia’s transportation dilemmas?
So for once in a long time, Cuccinelli and I may agree on an issue, albeit for fundamentally different reasons. The real test for Cuccinelli will be to see how much brain matter he can put behind viable transportation ideas of his own.
Up till now, Cuccinelli has been little more than a naysayer, a reader of the 10 Commandments, “Thou shalt…” Virginia needs vision, not condemnation. It needs leadership, not division.