Buried at the bottom of a Gainesville Times article by Dan Roem is a rather interesting quote from Jeff Dion which seems to run counter to his public statements that he would not want to raise taxes in Prince William County if elected to the Board of Supervisors. The article, which seems to gloss over any policy differences between Republican Mike May and Democrat Jeff Dion, amazingly failed to dig deeper into an actual policy difference it did manage to uncover. In an election where the mainstream media has utterly failed to find the differentiating factors between the two candidates — which certainly do exist, I’m disappointed that this opportunity was nearly missed.
Ever since the extended General Assembly session last year we’ve heard a lot about transportation and transportation funding. While the state enjoys extracting from the taxpayers more money than it is legally allowed to spend, there have been calls to establish a “dedicated funding source” (translation: a tax hike) for transportation spending increases that have successfully be resisted in the General Assembly. This strident call for a tax increase was frequently made by Jeanette Rishell who unsuccessfully ran for delegate in the 50th District last year, and apparently that call has been picked up by Jeff Dion:
“We clearly need to get more money from the state, but we also have to face the political reality that as long as our Prince William delegation is not supportive of a long-term funding scheme for transportation, all we’re going to have are short-term fixes,” Dion said last month of the county’s five Republican delegates opposing new taxes to pay for transportation projects.
Given the November 2006 victories of Corey Stewart and Jackson MIller, two fiscal conservatives who opposed this tax hike scheme, it’s certainly worth digging further into what really is an important policy difference between Mike May and Jeff Dion, especially when Jeff Dion is trying to buck the electoral trend. With Dion’s statement above, it would seem that he would have opposed the $300 million county transportation bond that passed as a measure to help relieve congestion in the county. He certainly doesn’t support the leadership demonstrated by our county legislative delegation in trying to fund transportation spending out of the revenues the state already collects, along with a bonding plan and significant reforms in VDOT and in land use planning. For Jeff Dion to return to the failed “let’s raise taxes again” solution offered by a number of prominent democrats certainly puts into question his stated commitment to not reach for the tax hike tool in order to deal with the county’s current budget challenges.
This transportation tax hike proposal that Jeff Dion supports is exactly counter to his prior statements of “find a way to cut spending, tax raises as a last resort” in regards to the county budget. The pressure of improving how much we “invest” in some important public priority, whether it be transportation, social services, education or whatever else may be the funding crisis of the month should be consistent regardless of what the program is. For transportation, Jeff Dion is all about new taxes. For social services — which Jeff Dion wants to spend more on — the answer is cut spending elsewhere. To me it seems that there’s no principle behind this stance, only the political wind gauge which might indicate whether voters will swallow a tax hike when the additional money goes to a particular priority.
The last time we hear this sort of rhetoric about revenues and spending from a Democrat, we ended up with someone who pledged not to raise taxes calling for a tax hike a week after he was elected. I suspect that with Jeff Dion, we risk seeing the same behavior. Too bad the paper didn’t chase this opportunity to inform the voters a little harder, as they might have actually helped many of them make a decision about who they would want to vote for. Mike May’s stance on transportation funding, as well as funding for any other priority, is consistent and clearly in line with the leadership of the Board of County Supervisors and the county’s legislative delegation. If you really want to be sure about what your Occoquan Supervisor will do to your tax bill, Mike May is the only one offering consistent clarity and commitment to principle.
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