In the paradoxical world many call Virginia, there are a group of legislators who claim to strongly dislike government spending while spending large amounts of government money on their own favorite programs. Saturday's 'deal' on the commonwealth's new transportation package offered more of the same big spending reality that doesn't appear to phase legislators in the Republican Party or their fans.
As was pointed out in an earlier post by Lowell Feld, the Democratic Party came out a winner in the negotiations over the soon-to-be-signed-into-law transportation bill (although it never quite seems like a victory to me...). Democrats not only kept the gas tax, they also cajoled Old McDonnell out of his no Medicaid expansion farmhouse. E-I, E-I, O. These two victories in and of themselves are quite remarkable, but they were just two out of many.
For Republicans in the General Assembly, the transportation bill may become the next whipping boy after the smoke has settled and constituents get a whiff of the tax increases that will be going into effect as a result. I can hear it now, 'You see, those Democrats just want to tax Virginians to death. To death, I say!" Of course, the same legislator saying this will be one of the same legislators who voted in favor of the bill.
And here we have the paradox surrounding many, if not most, political conversations with conservatives (and many liberals): conservatives are the non-government spending party, right? No!!
The myth, this gigantic lie, has seemingly shaded the rational process of millions of otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable Americans. It is a testament to how effective the conservative propaganda machine is that so many Americans can truly believe that Republicans from across the country do not spend government money. There is hardly a day that goes by that I don't hear some form of this argument made.
Ronald Reagan, that stalwart of conservative values, raised the federal deficit to nearly half of what it was when he came into office. I could write here for weeks with additional examples of Republican spending habits.
Now, Exhibit B, Republicans have agreed to some pretty serious spending and revenue increases that should, according to their orthodoxy, be considered a golden heresy.
It's time to cut through the baloney. The question isn't whether Virginia should spend taxpayer dollars to achieve social ends. The question is in what way; how best can we make a return on investment while continuing to invest in our communities? How best can be avoid the money pit that is transportation expenditures in Virginia without gutting the entire funding process?
Three cheers for the new transportation package. It does suck in some ways but as in life, we take the good with the bad. Maybe now, too, the VA GOP will admit that some revenue generating programs are worth their weight in gold (No Del. Marshall, we shouldn't begin minting our own gold coins!).
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