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Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

Letting Freedom Ring

I’ve written quite a bit over the last few weeks about the recent Tea Party protests and their long term potential. I’m of the belief that in order to be most effective conservatives need to start at the very bottom levels of government organizing, then get their people elected, the same people who will carry the conservative mantle to higher levels of government. Well, it looks like we’re starting to see that, starting with, of all places, Rhode Island! From Granite Grok (H/T The Corner and Michelle Malkin):

Mere days after the largest nationwide anti-tax rallies the likes of which haven’t been seen since prior to the start of the American Revolution, the City Council of Woonsocket, RI (Yes, THAT RI, with a sales, income, AND property tax, basically the highest in the country…) stood poised to stick the taxpayers with a “supplemental” tax bill to fund a budget shortfall in it’s school department. Essentially, the property taxpayers– with commercial owners paying 2-1/2 times the rate– would be sent a so-called “5th Quarter” tax bill. Normally, taxes are billed and paid in quarterly payments in the year.

…..

The local paper, The Woonsocket Call described the events:

Harris Hall was so packed that admittance was closed after about 130 spectators filled the room. People were standing against the back walls because there weren’t any more seats left and there was a line of speakers behind the lectern waiting to address the council that snaked out into the foyer. More than two hours after the session began, people were still waiting for their turn to speak, and the council hadn’t even recited the Pledge of Allegiance to mark the formal start of the agenda.

…..

The expected 6 to 1 vote favoring a supplemental tax bill to be foisted up Woonsocket taxpayers turned into a stunning 4 to 3 midnight vote, DEFEATING it!

An incredible display of citizen activism and organization. Want to start the momentum here? Get involved and attend Shenandoah County’s budget hearing next Thursday, April 30 (time pending). Although currently real estate taxes are not slated to be increased. there is talking of an increase on the vehicle tax (which Superivsors claim due to declining asessments will be “revenue neutral,” words always to be suspicious of when it comes to taxes assesed by value), it is important to ask questions about where the money is going and where it’s coming from. To borrow two old cliches: Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and knowledge is power.

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Supervisors Make Tough Calls, Smart Moves

I mentioned last week that I’m moving the focus of this blog away from local politics. Before I do so, however, I wanted to make a few final comments about the Board of Supervisors and the tough decisions they currently face. 

A few weeks ago I was critical of the board for adding to the long term debt load for the County by putting down payments on two tracts of land for school expansion in Strasburg and Woostock. While I still disagree with the timing, it is an issue that the Board will have to deal with in the future in terms of long-term strategic planning. 

However, kudos is due to the board for doing their best to deal with loss in revenue from both local and state sources in these troubling times. They’re making a number of prudent cuts that will allow them to avoid a property tax increase in the immediate future. Amongst the most challenging cuts they’re facing: a quarter reduction of their own salaries. For a job that already requires such great sacrifice and fierce criticism with such little reward, this is a very valiant gesture on the part of the board. As it stands it has just been discussed by the Budget Committee, but at the least this is the sort of selfless choice you like to see public officials consider. 

Another key move: streamlining the movement of leachate at the landfill through the construction of a pipeline rather than trucking the material across 11. This was a good move from both a public safety and financial aspect, particularly as the price of fuel remains unstable. It didn’t get the attention it deserved (mostly because it was overshadowed by the school land purchase), but every little bit helps, and being able to point to this sort of innovation will certainly help the incumbent supervisors this fall. 

So kudos to the board for making the difficult decisions they have to. It will be interesting to see how the County’s debt load plays out in the next few years, but for the time being, the Board is doing what it needs to do by focusing on the tough decisions that need to be made now to ensure that property owners don’t have to suffer a tax hike during the current economic downturn. 

Uncle Sam Will Save Us!

February 18, 2009 1 comment

Word came yesterday that the state’s budget shortfall is even deeper than originally thought. However, according to Governor Kaine, we shouldn’t fear. From the WaPo:

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said Monday that Virginia’s budget shortfall has grown more than 25 percent since December, bringing the gap between revenue and spending to more than $3.7 billion over two years as the economy worsens.

But Kaine (D) told legislative leaders in a closed meeting that the federal stimulus bill, expected to be signed into law Tuesday, will offset the additional $800 million shortfall for the two-year, $77 billion spending plan that runs through June 2010.

However, although this may seem like manna from heaven, this “fix” isn’t exactly without costs. From Tertium Quids:

According to this chart, our impoverished Uncle up North will be cutting the state a nice, guaranteed-not-to-bounce check for various and sundry items, including $1.2 billion for “budget balancing.”

That’s sweet. I’m sure our grandchildren will thank us one day for mortgaging their future to the world’s debt merchants so we can square our books today. 

If we’re lucky, that is. They may decide to show their gratitude by send us all to the crooked old folks home. Or they might develop a taste for Soylent Green.

You didn’t think this money was coming out of thin air, did you? Norm doesn’t even touch upon the rather serious implication of states relying upon federal dollars in order to correct their own fiscal mistakes. How are we to expect that our federalist system will maintain its careful balance when the the federal government is bailing out the states every time mismanagement occurs? Why even have states? 

But these questions are for another time. From the time being, the Senate has adopted a wait and see approach to see just how big of winners we are in the Generational Debt Lotto. t to pass their budget today. Worry not. The fireworks are just beginning.

I didn’t pay for that!

January 28, 2009 Leave a comment

From PilotOnline comes word that Virginia is owed about $3 to $5 million in costs related to the Inaugural. The exact number doesn’t really matter because, come on, what’s $2 million between friends?

Seriously, though, be sure to remind your Delegate and State Senators that Virginia should get its due. The citizens also deserve an exact accounting of the costs.

And while you’re at it, you may want to remind Governor Kaine that the PIC is a private entity that accepts donations. His leadership PAC has about $319,000 in it, and Virginia’s citizens sure could use the relief right now…..

Transparency Setback

January 28, 2009 Leave a comment

In a setback for transparency efforts during the General Assembly Session, the Senate Finance Committee killed SB 812, which would have allowed (but not required) local governments to put their expenditures online. Its patron, Senator Ken Cucinelli, released the following statement:

“In the age of Obama, where Democrats preach ‘hope,’ ‘change,’ and ‘open government,’ its disappointing to see that those are meaningless words,” said Cuccinelli.  “The reality is that the status quo is willing to block anything that allows the people to see into how their government is really run.”

I have to admit that in the initial publicity surrounding this year’s transparency bills I thought the measures were only for the state government. While other bills do focus on the state government, I think this bill may have been even more important. Even though its closer to most people’s lives, local government often does not get enough notice or attention. Such an open look at the goings-on of local government probably would have a put a halt to the sort of minor corruption that goes on all the time, such as the government paying for employees lunches (and I’m not talking Christmas Dinner here) or indiscriminate use of petty cash. 

Wonder where VACO stood on this one?

Government Transparency, Nebraska Style

January 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Word is that bueracrats in Richmond are scared that transparency might finally come to the state budget and further jeopardize their pet projects (as if the budget crunch wasn’t doing that already), causing them to trot out the excuse that it will cost too much. The Family Foundation, however, begs to differ:

Last year, it said it would cost more than $1 million. This year, between $1.5-$3 million. This might seem plausible except for the fact that no state has created such a search engine for more than $300,000 and the federal government put its $2 trillion of annual spending online for $1 million. Virginia spends a “paltry” $39 billion each year. Most states have done it for free, because OMB Watch, a group that created the software for the feds, has made it available for free to states!

So today, working with the National Taxpayers Union (special thanks to Josh Culling), we secured a statement that will will distribute to the General Assembly. It comes from the Treasurer of Nebraska. He created NebraskaSpending.com by Executive Order in 2007. He proved that putting a searchable budget database online could be done inexpensively without compromising its purpose. For $38,000, NebraskaSpending.com includes information on state government dollars to be spent, state dollars received, investment operation pool, grants, contracts, and a breakdown of property taxes and state aid.

Get ready for ’09

January 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Both sides are gearing up for massive elections in 2009, not just for Governor but in the House as well. With Republicans holding just a slim 3 seat majority (although both independents generally side with Republicans) and at least two of those Delegates in Districts that went for Obama by big margins, and Democrats energized after not only wining the state for the first time in 44 years this last fall but also gaining control of the State Senate, both parties will be fighting tooth and nail for the House. From the WaPo:

“There is this mood, this feeling in the air. I can feel a much more aggressive passion to get control,” said Del. Paul F. Nichols (D-Prince William). “We feel there is . . . light at the end of the tunnel.”

Republicans, tired of losing statewide races, vow not to cede any more ground to Democrats. Instead, Republicans say they will be the party on the offense, targeting Democratic incumbents in the House and pouring money into Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell‘s campaign for governor.

“They are going to see a new Republican Party in 2009,” said Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who is running for reelection.

The stakes are higher this year than most. Legislators must cut at least $3 billion from the state’s two-year, $77 billion budget, which will require deep reductions in vital government services such as health care.

Word on the street says most of the most targeted races have already staffed up, so this is sure to be a marquee year, particularly for political professionals.