My View – A taxing solution

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A recent Alexandria Times editorial stated that the no tax people have no solution except decline and stagnation regarding the new taxes imposed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA). Before making such a negative and all-encompassing claim, it would have been more appropriate if the Times had contacted the no tax folks at Alexandria Taxpayers United, the National Taxpayers Union or any other group focused on fiscal restraint and asked us if we had any ideas for potential transportation solutions.

We believe that the single best solution would be for Northern Virginia to receive an amount of state funding proportionate to our contribution to the Commonwealths tax base. Out of every tax dollar sent to Richmond, comparatively little is returned to our area. Our elected leaders would be better off working to get a fairer piece of the pie rather than caving in and setting a future precedent for unfair returns on high inputs.

We also suggest that the entire transportation budget be audited and reviewed for efficiency and effectiveness with an eye to avoid waste and pork barrel spending. For example, we fail to understand why the City of Falls Church should receive more than a quarter million dollars under the NVTA plan to improve their already spectacular sidewalks. Spending like this smacks of insider influence, and will do nothing to improve traffic conditions.

Another potential positive method to get some cars off the road would be to offer a modest tax incentive to those using mass transit. Individuals can add funds to the Metro Systems Smart Cards with credit cards, thereby creating an audit trail for tax filing purposes. As Smart Cards are also a cost effective method to serve mass transit clients, the overall system should benefit.

How about congestion pricing? This would ensure that those individuals creating the traffic would actually pay for it, instead of foisting the cost on all unsuspecting taxpayers.

There may even be room in the Commonwealth for an increased gas tax. Indeed, we have reviewed hundreds of the comments left by the more than 158,000 people who have signed the petition against the patently unfair fees being awarded to bad Virginia drivers. A surprising number of individuals have suggested that a modest increase in the state gasoline tax (in the low cents range) would be a much more fair way of obtaining revenues necessary for new infrastructure construction.

Still, any new tax should be a last resort and be approved by elected bodies or referendums, not imposed by professional politicians who have created an artificial Authority to hide from their voters.

These are just a few possibilities formulated over the course of a single evening by a group of unpaid volunteers. Surely our elected officials and their professional staffs can develop additional solutions that will be fundamentally fairer and less regressive than the methods imposed by NVTA.

The entrance fee to the NVTAs new world of taxation without representation is already pegged at $300 million. We wonder what the bill will be two years from now. At least we can sleep sound at night knowing that Falls Churchs sidewalks are new.

Bud Miller
Alexandria Taxpayers United

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