Higher Taxes: The Wrong Road Forward

At a time when conservatives across America are looking for a road forward for our country and for our party, there are many paths to heal what’s ailing our movement. Tossing aside our conservative principles and raising taxes on families isn’t one of them.

Rhetorically, there is near-unanimous agreement in the grassroots of our movement that Americans are taxed too much already, and that government needs to get its spending in check rather than reaching into the pockets of hardworking people time after time. This is, of course, correct.

But rather than matching their words with deeds, too many Republicans in The Old Dominion are aligning themselves with a flawed, so-called “compromise” to fund our state’s transportation infrastructure—one which raises taxes and eschews fiscal responsibility in favor of government accounting gimmicks.

As Iain Murray writes on National Review Online, the legislation “breaks the user-pays principle so that non-transit users in the rest of the state will pay for the brunt of transit schemes in Northern Virginia… [and] relies heavily on an Internet sales tax. Worst of all, it represents a massive tax increase.”

The Virginia House passed this transportation tax hike today, the Senate is expected to follow suit shortly, and the Governor is expected to sign it into law.

I admire and respect our conservative Governor, Bob McDonnell, who has shown real courage and made great strides for our Commonwealth when it comes to promoting economic development and pursuing education reform. The Governor is boldly and creatively attempting to get something done on our state’s serious transportation challenges, but he’s been ill-served by the conference committee that produced a Christmas tree of new and higher taxes in this troubling “compromise.”

It’s a poor proposal—particularly as many other states, such as Louisiana and North Carolina, are cutting taxes and working to reduce spending. That’s why I was among the very first to publicly oppose it, and that’s why I am glad that our conservative Attorney General and, I hope, future Governor Ken Cuccinelli has shared that sentiment.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to recognize that this one is bad—but my unequivocal opposition to this tax hike has earned me undue praise from fellow conservatives. It’s simply the right thing to do.

However, it’s also earned me the swift and public scorn of entrenched career politicians, Democrat and Republican alike. As a conservative outsider who’s not in with the “bigger government + higher taxes” set in Richmond, I wear that scorn like a conservative badge of honor.

I’m not a career politician— in fact, I’ve spent my entire career in the private sector as a job creator—and like most of you who will read this, I don’t need the validation of career politicians who have a long history of raising taxes and increasing the size and scope of government.

But more importantly, at a time when our economy is still struggling; some Virginia families are contending with double-digit unemployment; and other parts of the state are staring down the barrel of Barack Obama’s sequestration, raising taxes is the last thing we should be doing.

As Republicans look for a road forward in Virginia and beyond, betraying our conservative principles and raising taxes is no way for us to lead. Not only is this massive tax hike harmful to our economy, but it defies logic as well.

Here in Virginia, our population has grown by roughly 30 percent over the last two decades, yet our state budgets have grown by close to 270 percent. We’ve seen substantial surpluses here in Virginia, but despite politicians’ insistence that transportation is a top priority, that money hasn’t seemed to make its way to our roads and bridges.

In Virginia’s case, and others, mathematics would seem to show us that government has the money it needs to pay for top government priorities like transportation and education.  We simply need leaders in our state capitols who are willing to approach government spending the same way responsible families and businesses budget themselves each and every day: by putting top priorities first, and trimming wasteful, duplicative, and otherwise extraneous spending.

Our states truly are the laboratories of our Republic. And now is the time—not only in Virginia, but throughout the nation—for Republicans to lead the charge for real, comprehensive reforms of our tax codes and our broken spending mechanisms. In doing so, we need to clearly communicate what we are doing, and why it is so important to individuals, families and communities.

For all our hand-wringing, we as Republicans don’t have to change our values and toss principle aside to find the road forward. We simply need to lead and lead boldly. And we need to remember, we don’t have a revenue problem in Richmond or in Washington—we have a spending problem. And the right road forward is to rein it in.

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