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2008 Election &Conservatives &Virginia politics Richard Falknor on 03 Mar 2008 07:43 am

Marshall v. NVTA – – – a growing estrangement between Virginia Republicans and Virginia Conservatives?

Last Friday morning, some Republican members of the Virgina General Assembly were reportedly less than ebullient over the constitutional victory of one of their members, delegate Bob Marshall, in the Virginia Supreme Court.

Below is the Tax Foundation’s take on this refreshing decision

“Virginia Supreme Court: Giving Power to Tax to an Unelected Body is Unconstitutional.”

“The court found that the NVTA, created in 2002 and given the power to tax in 2007, exceeded its powers when it levied 7 taxes on residents of Northern Virginia.”

You can read the Foundation’s entire article for a full explanation of the proceeding.

But there is another, looming significance. Are Republicans and conservatives returning to an earlier estrangement?

Those of you who saw FOXNews’ Right from the Start Saturday night on William F. Buckley’s life could revisit the earlier estrangement between Republicans and conservatives. For example, Nixon saw, in 1965, Buckley’s movement and The John Birch Society in somewhat the same light.

Later, of course, president Reagan embraced the conservative movement and worked hand in hand with the founder of the National Review.

The question is how much this earlier Nixon-Ford-Rockefeller kind of estrangement is returning both nationally and at the state level. Certainly the president and national conservatives have drifted substantially apart during his second term.

Last April 10, Brendan Miniter writing in the Wall Street Journal‘s “Political Diary”
had some stinging observations on the Virginia Republican Establishment in the context of giving regional transportation authorities taxing powers.

“But two successive Democratic governors have now won significant tax increases out of a Republican-run state legislature. First it was Mark Warner, who signed into law a $1.4 billion tax hike in 2004. Inking the deal with support of Republicans in the state House and Senate made him an instant sensation in the national Democratic Party and convinced him to run for president (he has since dropped out). This week it was Gov. Kaine, elected in 2005, who came out with what may be a more significant tax increase because it gives two regional transportation authorities power to impose more than a half dozen new taxes and fees. Previously new taxes had to be approved by the legislature, a step that has kept taxes low in Virginia. Now other jurisdictions in the state are likely soon to be clamoring for power to independently enact new taxes too.

Gov. Kaine said recently he has no plans on seeking another significant tax hike in his term. Why should he? Over the past three years, Republicans have agreed to two major tax increases. On the first occasion, a maverick clutch of Republican senators broke ranks to push through Mr. Warner’s tax. This time around it was Republican leaders who caved. State party chairman Ed Gillespie, Attorney General Robert McDonnell and House Speaker Bill Howell all took the lead in pushing this tax hike through. They argue that this was a necessary compromise to stave off an even larger tax increase. But if the GOP is now the party of the lesser of two tax hikes, it’s a party that has surrendered its key appeal in the minds of voters.(My underscoring.)

What is the answer to state transportation needs? The Fairfax County Taxpayer Alliance continues to crunch the Commonwealth spending numbers, and to develop some fiscally sensible answers. (One might ask whether anyone else in Virginia on the center-right accomplishes what FCTA chief Arthur Purves does in the way of analysis.)

FCTA comes to the same conclusion as Brendan Miniter:

“Supporting tax hikes will not reverse the red-to-blue momentum in Virginia. Instead Republicans risk becoming, like the Democrats, the party of higher taxes. Few grass-roots Republicans will rally behind Republican legislators that support tax hikes.”

Virginia conservatives have (properly) been concerned with important values issues, but too many of them have been indifferent to fiscal and property-rights questions. Now, however, is the time to steer the Virginia Republican Establishment away from crony capitalism and toward the principles of Milton Friedman. As Heritage’s Ron Utt pointed out in his recent expose of the “Dulles Rail Boondoogle” – – –

“As voters in the area already know, a large part the metropolitan area’s congestion problem stems from the mismanagement of the region’s transportation system by a collection of duplicative bureaucracies, which now includes three state Departments of Transportation (DOT), one federal DOT, freelancing members of the U.S. Congress and their staffs, a metropolitan planning organization, a new regional transportation authority recently empowered to raise taxes, a dozen or so counties and cities, and a meddlesome business community that supports wasteful transportation schemes that promise lucrative real estate development opportunities but little congestion relief, of which the Dulles rail extension proposal is a prime example.” (My underscoring.)

Is this estrangement between Republicans and conservatives repairable? In Virginia? Nationally?

Stay tuned.

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