Paul Jacob

The oldest legislature in the nation, the Virginia General Assembly, is a tax and budget train-wreck. It is also Exhibit A in the case against the politicians who have hijacked our system of citizen-controlled government.

That Virginia politicians want to raise taxes isn?t surprising. It seems politicians everywhere always want to raise taxes. Human wants and needs are insatiable, able to suck any revenue stream dry, no matter how wide or deep. Legislators are constantly besieged by those seeking ever-larger reserves from the ever-expanding reservoir--and always will be.

But, our finances are not so elastic. Our wants and needs at home must be limited by our incomes or stores of saved wealth. The wants and needs that politicians wish to meet must be tempered by having to gain the consent of the governed.

Jefferson, Washington, Madison--Virginia's great ghosts--all understood and supported the concept of governing only by the consent of the governed. Governor Mark Warner and many in the legislature do not.

Virginia's one-term limit has led to a string of governors who promised not to raise taxes or to cut certain taxes. Then, amazingly, they actually kept their word. But not Governor Warner, who incidentally wants to end the one-term limit.

Oh, sure, in his 2001 campaign, Warner did the promising-not-to-raise-taxes part, defining himself as "someone who understands that government has to live within its means. Someone who will not raise your taxes." He merely skipped the keeping-his-word part.

An Uncool Billion

Warner cannot claim to have misunderstood the public, however. In 2002, Warner took his case for higher taxes to the people of both Northern Virginia and the Tidewater area: he sponsored a tax hike referendum for transportation. Both areas suffer from terrible traffic congestion and Governor Warner stumped aggressively for the increase. But though the pro-referendum forces heavily outspent those opposed, the tax hike went down in flames.

Then, as the 2003 legislative elections approached, Warner spoke of the need for tax "reform." But tellingly, he chose not to divulge his plan until after the election was over. He was up to something, but what?

Having promised not to raise taxes, having been defeated at the polls on a tax hike and having refused to take the issue to the voters in an election year, the Governor now calls for a $1 billion tax increase.

But it gets worse.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.