Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mr. Houck Goes for my Wallet

Mr. Houck Goes for My Wallet
By D.J. McGuire

I couldn’t help but read the four-page advertisement cu biography Edd Houck put in the Free Lance Star. I thought I might discover something I didn’t know about this long-time Spotsylvania politician. This may be more the case for me than for others, as I do not live in his district (my part of Spotsylvania has been represented in the State Senate by Ryan McDougle and, before him, Bill Bolling). However, by the time it was over, I was and am very grateful that my State Senator is Mr. McDougle.

I don’t mean that to be personal. It is clear that Edd Houck is a decent man and a well-meaning Senator, but he has made some terrible, terrible decisions; he hinted at them in his own advertisement, and with a little research, I discovered just how far removed Mr. Houck has become from his constituents.

For me, the problem popped up on Page 3, where Houck decided it was a good time to rip recently elected Governor Bob McDonnell for the latter’s “no-tax mantra.” My heart sank as soon as I read it. It was a painful simplification of a time-honored, reality-based concern that tax increases can and will damage the economy of our Commonwealth.

A careful reader can see what I mean. In Houck’s complaints about the budget, he says a $4 billion reduction in state spending will cut “about 50,000 jobs.” Perhaps he hoped that would scare us into raising our taxes.

I would like to know why we should thank the government for spending roughly $80,000 to create a job. Something tells me leaving that $4 billion in private hands will put more people to work.

He does it again on page 4, railing about the “no-tax approach” of Orange County Delegates Ed Scott and Rob Bell, who voted against an income tax increase earlier this year. However, even Houck acknowledges that the income tax hike went down in the House of Delegates by a vote of 97-0.

So it wasn’t just Orange County Delegates, but Delegates in Culpeper, Madison, Louisa, Spotsylvania, and Fredericksburg who opposed it.

It wasn’t just “no-tax Republicans,” but at least three dozen “post-Byrd Democrats” who parted company with him and sent the tax hike to a well-deserved death.
Nor was it just the recent budget crisis that spurred Mr. Houck. He has voted for tax increases in recessions; he has voted for them in booms. He has voted for tax increases during budget shortfalls; he has voted for them with burgeoning surpluses.
Nothing, however, compared with a day he left out of his advertisement: June 24, 2008.

On that one day, as a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, Edd Houck voted in favor of . . .

• An increase in the gasoline tax by 6 cents (SB 6009)
• An increase in the state sales tax on cars by 1/2% (SB 6009)
• An addition sales tax of 1/2% on Northern Virginia (SB 6009)
• A hotel occupancy tax of $5 per night on Northern Virginia (SB 6009)
• A grantor’s tax (real estate) of $.40 per $1000 on Northern Virginia (SB 6009)
• A “recapture” index on the gasoline tax that would lead to a tax increase of over 14 cents per gallon (SB 6010)
• An increase in the state titling tax on cars by 1/2% (SB6010)
• An additional sales tax of 1/2 cent on Northern Virginia (SB6010)
• An additional sales tax of 3/4 cent on Hampton Roads (SB6010)
• A hotel occupancy tax of $5 per night on Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads (SB6010)
• A grantor’s tax (real estate) of $.40 per $1000 on Northern Virginia (SB6010)
• An additional increase in the gasoline tax by 1% on Hampton Roads (SB6010)
• An additional 1% sales tax on the Richmond metropolitan area and the Fredericksburg region (SB6010)
• A increase in the wholesale gasoline tax by 5% (SB 6015)
• An increase in the state sales tax on cars by 1/2% (SB 6015)
• An increase in the state rental tax on cars by 1% (SB 6015)

That’s thirteen different tax increases – in one day.

Fifteen months later, another “post-Byrd Democrat” made it clear just how far out of the mainstream Houck has moved. Doug Wilder, the first elected African-American Governor, had this to say about those who would seek to dig deeper into our pockets.
This is not the time in our Commonwealth to talk about any kind of tax increase, especially those that are fundamentally regressive and will hit hardest those who are struggling. Rather, it is the time to put our fiscal house in order, strengthening the Commonwealth for the future.

Yet nearly every tax that won Houck’s support on that summer day in 2008 was a sales tax or a gasoline tax, exactly the kind “that are fundamentally regressive and will hit hardest those who are struggling.”

It won’t surprise many voters to know Mr. Houck’s is more tax-hike-friendly than Republicans; it may shock them to know how far to the left in his own party he has traveled over the years.

As for me, I am deeply grateful that my State Senator is Ryan McDougle. In the four years he has served since the 2006 special election, he has never voted to raise my taxes. He understands the damage tax increases can do to the state’s economy in general, and to the budgets of working families in particular. Oddly enough, it was Mr. Houck’s advertisement that led me to be so grateful that I am not his constituent, a situation that I hope remains true after redistricting.

Mr. McGuire is an adjunct faculty member teaching economics at Germanna Community College.

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