Justice looking into Puckett mess. You had to know this was coming. After Phil Hamilton and Bob McDonnell, Virginia pols are in the sights of the U.S. Justice Department. Now-departed Virginian-Pilot reporter Julian Walker first mentioned this ten days ago.
In the budget: ODU stadium mandate dropped. I understood completely why the General Assembly included in the initial budget the mandate that a new stadium at ODU be built only with private funds: the JLARC study from last September (pdf). I was alerted to the study in the course of my research for a paper I wrote last fall. If Virginia had a university system – the topic of my research paper – for its 4-year public institutions, this kind of thing wouldn’t fly so far under the radar as it does now. That language, though, has been removed from the budget. (Not a surprise, really.)
Vote was a mistake. OK, so my state senator, Lynwood Lewis, pushed the wrong button last Thursday when voting on the budget. Yes, it was one heck of a mistake. But give it a rest, people. There’s no way to change the vote tally afterwards except the way he did it.
Finally, there is an issue that you may want to keep an eye on: tax reform in Virginia. For a number of years, there have been bills introduced to restructure Virginia’s taxes. Most of them end up in the dustbin, primarily because they are simply unworkable. But the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy has been (not so) quietly pushing its own version. First released in April 2012 (pdf), the initiative has been updated twice: in April 2013 (pdf) and again in October 2013 (pdf). Essentially, the plan is to eliminate the BPOL tax, the machinery & tools tax, the merchants capital tax and to reduce the individual state income tax. The lost revenues will be replaced with an expansion of the sales tax, by making it apply to services.
There were several bills introduced in the last General Assembly session that embraced this. None of them passed but most, rather than killed outright, were carried over to the 2015 session. Obviously, there are groups – primarily service providers – who are aligned against this. Imagine paying sales tax on dry cleaning, child care, and college tuition.
This issue isn’t going away. I doubt there is a tax more hated in the business community than BPOL. The problem is that this tax is collected by the localities, who learned a long time ago that they couldn’t rely on Richmond to replace the revenue. The car tax is just the latest example of Richmond’s failure to do so – and why we still have to pay a portion of it. If legislation ever makes it out of committee to eliminate this tax, expect the localities to be all over it.