Tag Archives: Dick Saslaw

Two Wrongs ≠ A Right

GOP becoming extinct

gop-extinct ObamaIt pains me to criticize Republicans acting aggressively on their own behalf, because lately it’s been rare. Sometimes it appears national GOP leadership would be content to emulate the panda and sit contentedly munching bamboo shoots in a special preserve where one is protected from predators and challengers alike.

There is some indignity involved when the media pokes and prods you with questions regarding your sex life. And it is disquieting knowing the Chinese own you body and soul. But in its entirety the situation would not be all that different from that of the debt–ridden USA.

Besides, once a species is practically extinct trend–setters put your face on cool coffee mugs and fashionable people throw parties on your behalf. Unfortunately, we already have the panda so there is little room for Republicans in the National Zoo. Still our “leadership” continues this death–wish behavior.

But consistency and intellectual honesty compel me to take aggressive Virginia Senate Republicans to task for the redistricting ambush they sprang on Democrats last week.

You may recall the Virginia Senate is evenly split: 20 Republican members and 20 Spendacrats, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling there to break any ties. A minor GOP House redistricting bill had been languishing in committee for some time. Although not exactly in a persistent vegetative state, the bill wasn’t at the top of anyone’s legislative agenda. But that was before Sen. Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R–The Re–Animator) went to work.

The bill metamorphosed from an innocuous housekeeping bill into a Pearl Harbor equivalent all out attack on Senate Dems.

The bill concentrates minority voters in a new Southside district and alters almost all other Senate district lines. According to Dems interviewed by the WaPost, the new lines would make eight districts distinctly more Republican — and since six of the seats are currently held by Dems — the new lines have the potential to result in significant GOP gains in November’s election.

As an added bonus, the bill puts two incumbents — R. Creigh Deeds (D–Lost My Race for Gov) and Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R–Who Did I Anger?) in the same district where only one will survive.

Norment knew he could not depend on Bolling to break a tie on the new bill, because the Big Bill has been acting squishy lately. So the majority leader had the legislation waiting in the weeds until Sen. Henry L Marsh III (D–I was 3 before RGIII) left Richmond to attend the Dear Leader’s celebration.

With Marsh absent, the bill passed 20 to 19.

WaPost editorialists set their vituperators on ‘stun’ and described the event thusly, “The Republican move was executed in the style of a putsch, arising from a conspiracy and with no warning, public input or debate. “ Which sounds suspiciously like the regulation writing process at EPA and is reason enough to oppose the effort.

They continued, “Unlike the GOP dominated House of Delegates, the Senate has been in Democratic (sic) hands or closely divided since 2007. The Republican gerrymander, which could deliver several seats to the GOP, would change that at a stroke.”

What the WaPost doesn’t say is the former redistricting bill, authored by Dems, is also grossly gerrymandered and designed to protect Dem incumbents. For example, Prince William County — where I live — in the words of County Executive Corey Stewart, is “carved up like a Christmas Turkey.” The third most populous county in the state doesn’t even have its own senator. Instead it is split between five different Senate districts, which only serves to dilute PWC influence.

Needless to say, Dems are outraged and they have a point. Using a temporary political advantage to ram an extremely controversial bill through a legislative body is bad long–term policy. It was bad when Obama rammed Obamacare through a lame duck Senate before Republican Scott Brown was sworn in. It will be bad policy if US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Prevaricate) violates established Senate rules to change the filibuster procedure and punish Republicans.

And it’s bad policy in Richmond.

What’s more, the repercussions threaten to put a Saslaw–sized Jersey barrier in front of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan. After the redistricting bill was passed, Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D–Hoppin’ Mad) said the governor’s transportation bill was dead and so was any hope of cooperation from Senate Dems.

And here is the trilemma: if McDonnell vetoes the bill it makes Senate Dems happy, while at the same time offending Senate Republican leadership. If the governor could depend on every GOP Senator to vote for his transportation bill, he could hold his nose and sign the redistricting bill. But unanimous GOP support is not a given. On the other hand, vetoing the bill could mean his transportation plan never gets out of committee in the Senate.

There is a third way that doesn’t put the governor on the spot and still gives the redistricting bill a decent Christian burial. Saslaw and Speaker Bill Howell (R–In the Driver’s Seat) could work out a behind–the–scenes deal where the bill is killed in the House in return for Saslaw guaranteeing Senate Dem votes for the transportation plan that Howell is sponsoring in the House. But then again, if the House kills the Senate’s bill, angry GOP senators may take revenge by killing pet projects of House members.

I won’t shed any tears for the demise of the governor’s transportation plan for reasons outlined here, but the Commonwealth is in need of a good transportation program. The Senate’s redistricting bill is an unnecessary complication that may thwart that goal and makes Republicans look unethical.

It’s times like these that the governor should be glad Virginia is still in the liquor business.

VA Gov. McDonnell Suffering from Legacy Fever

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell does not see any reason why a comprehensive transportation package should not include corduroy roads.
VA Gov. Bob McDonnell does not see any reason why a comprehensive transportation package should not include corduroy roads.

VA Gov. Bob McDonnell does not see any reason why a comprehensive transportation package should not include corduroy roads.

Judging from Gov. Bob McDonnell preoccupation with liquids one would almost think he’s a naval man, rather than an Army reservist. First he tried to free demon rum from state control by privatizing Virginia’s liquor stores.

ABC privatization was DOA even with a Republican House of Delegates for reasons outlined here. Now Gov Bob is intent on reinforcing failure with his latest proposal to free gasoline from Virginia’s fuel tax.

Doesn’t the governor realize that as far as legacies go drinking and driving don’t mix?

Initiatives like these are the result of a severe case of legacy fever — a condition characterized by a politician’s feverish attempt to pass a law voters will remember after their term ends. Symptoms include policy delirium, proposal vomiting and head–count headaches.

Legacy fever doesn’t confine its damage to the infected politician. Visible scars include Obamacare, No Child Left Behind and The Great Society.

This is the last session of the legislature for McDonnell. And unless he wants to be smeared as “Gov. Ultrasound” for all time, he must convince the House and Senate to pass a major legislative proposal.

McDonnell wants his legacy to be a major transportation package that will inject $3.2 billion into Virginia’s transportation fund and give the Commonwealth enough money to both build and repair roads — a twofer that’s been missing in recent years.

The governor’s proposal eliminates the tax on gasoline, increases vehicle registration fees by $15, raises the sales tax by 0.8 percent, increases the portion of sales tax revenue dedicated to transportation by 50 percent and slaps a $100 fee on pretentious alternative fuel vehicles that burn French fry oil mixed with taxpayer subsidies.

In addition, Gov Bob is hoping for some kindness from strangers in DC. Part of the money comes from a tax he hopes Congress will authorize on internet sales, meaning those lazy shop–at–homers (who by the way aren’t cluttering up the roads) will be paying sales tax AND shipping on their purchases.

Unless additional money is found the fund for new construction will be completely empty by 2017 as every last penny goes to maintenance on roads already built.

Fortunately there is a simple solution to this problem. First index the state’s gas tax to inflation, since it has not been increased in 27 years. Then the increase from the gas tax should be offset by a decrease in the income tax making the result revenue neutral.

This also has the advantage of being the responsible conservative solution since people who buy gas tend to burn it on highways, in effect making it a user tax paid by those using the roads.

Unfortunately, we have a legislature dominated by irresponsible conservatives that refuse to raise any tax, regardless of need or justification. Grover Norquist speaks for them when he issued a fatwa against raising the gas tax ruling that voting in favor of indexing violates the No Tax Pledge.

Instead, Norquist says plenty of money for roads can be found by cutting spending in other areas of the budget. This is the policy equivalent of saying, “God bless you” after a sneeze. It does nothing to prevent the spread of germs but gives the speaker a benevolent glow without spending any time in theology school.

If it were possible to cut spending elsewhere to fund roads, it would have been done before now. The potholes you dodge and the gridlock you endure proves this is easier said than done.

McDonnell is obviously appreciates the value of a revenue neutral bill, but removing the tax from gasoline is a ham–handed attempt and profoundly unconservative. It means out of state drivers — which constitute 30 percent of the traffic on Virginia roads — pay nothing for the use of Virginia roads. In effect Virginia taxpayers will be subsidizing the beach traffic jamming our highways on summer weekends.

Transportation is a core government function, and if Gov Bob was certain Republicans would be in charge of government from now on, funding roads from the general fund might be marginally acceptable. But there is no guarantee Virginia voters won’t lose their mind and put Democrats back in charge.

Once you mingle transportation money with the rest of the general fund, it means that money is no longer earmarked for roads. Democrats have no problem raiding the transportation trust fund to spend on their social justice priorities, and they have done it in the past. Tinkering with the percentage of the sales tax that goes to roads will be child’s play for them.

On the other hand, when Republicans want to reverse the process and use general fund money on roads, the likes of Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D–Spending) will accuse you of wanting to boil school children in asphalt.

My suggestion is the GOP leadership put a cold compress on the governor’s forehead and urge him to lie down in a darkened caucus room. Meanwhile, they can put all their efforts behind a transportation solution like mine that has the twin virtues of being both simple and conservative.