Already, it’s brilliantly clear that Virginia’s grab-bag-of-taxes solution to a decade-long transportation funding crisis is unbelievably and needlessly complex.
The prime thing it seems to accomplish is that it gives Gov. Bob McDonnell bragging rights to say that he’s the first governor in the history of the nation who “abolished the gas tax” — the retail version, anyway. That may prove a useful resume-builder for his future in national politics
The plan replaces the retail gas tax with a wholesale tax that will certainly be passed onto consumers (and which is even higher for you diesel drivers, sorry!); raises the state sales tax, the vehicle transfer tax, and imposes local-option sales taxes for transportation, higher hotel taxes in Northern Virginia and some more fees and taxes.
The bill is 109 pages long, and they could have fixed the whole issue, mostly, by changing two digits in one line — 17.5 27.5 cents per gallon — and indexing the tax to inflation in the next sentence.
Now we have another question, raised in today’s Washington Post. Former Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman and Norman Leahy, editor of the right-leaning BearingDrift.com, ask: “Is it unconstitutional.” They seem to answer yes:
Virginia’s constitution is clear that the General Assembly can impose only uniform taxes across the state for similar activities. But the bill that emerged from the House-Senate conference committee last weekend upsets the historic balance between localities and state government; it contains new provisions about taxation, some of which would effectively set up a two-tier system for residents in certain parts of the state. It’s difficult to see how some of these provisions could survive legal challenge.
Read the whole thing. It’s really interesting. And the overarching question is raises is: Is this thing truly fixed at all?