Last week leadership from the Chambers of Commerce from a bunch of localities buttonholed members of the General Assembly so they could yell at them to raise gas taxes, or as the Loudoun Chamber president put it “they shouldn’t bother coming back from Richmond.” After, yes after this delegation claimed in all sincerity this is what the business community demanded, the Prince William Chamber put up a one question survey with the obvious aim of generating statistics from the business community to justify the hard line on tax raises they settled on before asking anyone what they thought.
Ready, fire, aim.
Here’s what the Chamber apparently thinks is a reasonable means of generating legitimate statistical evidence to support their pre-ordained “solution.”
1. State legislators are exploring a number of options to generate revenue to maintain and expand Virginia’s infrastructure and transit systems. Of the funding options below, which do you favor? Please check all that apply.Increasing state gas tax
Creating mileage tax (VMT)
Creating regional gas tax (NOVA/Hampton Roads)
Creating regional sales tax (NOVA/Hampton Roads)
Increasing state sales tax
Increasing income tax
Creating new and/or increasing existing tolls
None of the above
Yeah, your chamber dues are really working for your benefit, fellow small business owners. The Chamber has been captured by fools that blindly take orders from big-government Statists, and put up polls “soliciting your input” only about how more money can be raised for transportation. They’ve done none of the the kinds of homework business owners must do on a daily basis to solve problems unless they really want to fail. Seriously, to the extent we have problems with congestion and road safety (and we do) why in the heck would people who supposedly represent the business community automatically assume that throwing more money at the problem is going to yield any positive benefit whatsoever?
During the last budget cycle the Commonwealth and the federal government went on an unprecedented spending spree on transportation, fueled by money found in an audit of VDOT that wasn’t being used, and starting projects such as the Silver Line Metro to Dulles Airport, and HOT lanes on the beltway which they promised us would provide significant relief. Those projects aren’t even completed yet, and we have no evidence so far they have failed to deliver the results they promised us. Since we’re spending many of billions of taxpayer dollars on huge projects now, before we go on the next spending spree we might as well figure out if the last one did what it was promised to do.
Weren’t these the same folks demanding HOT lanes and the Silver Line be built as the solution to our problems in the first place? They haven’t even been completed yet, and already the “leadership” of the Chamber is demanding more. Is this how they run their businesses?
Not too surprisingly, the skeptic in me expects these projects won’t deliver on the promises made, because government’s track record on such promises tends to be absolutely awful. More specifically, the analyst in me strongly suspects that any solution that completely neglects trying to resolve the underlying problem can never amount to more than a band-aid solution, no matter how expensive that solution was. More lanes, under any funding scheme on the beltway, doesn’t address the core problem. Metrorail to Dulles doesn’t actually address any problem, since hardly anyone is commuting to the airport during rush hour. These are political solutions to engineering problems, and politicians make rather lousy engineers.
When you give politicians money on something like this, each one gets a “fair share” of the money to have projects located in their districts, and that’s how you end up with a bypass being built around Danville, VA while Interstates 66 and 95 remain at a standstill. Money isn’t allocated to tackle the top problems of road congestion and safety, it’s programmed so each member of the General Assembly has an opportunity to crow about how much state money got plowed into their district because of their seniority on the budget committee. Hand these pols more money and all you’re going to end up with is better campaign advertisements. Sure, some of those projects will make sense and do some good for some folks, but there’s no way anyone can assume money is being programmed to where it would deliver the best results. The system itself isn’t designed to do that at all. It is designed to spend money, not actually solve problems.
The engineering problem is one of congestion and road safety. The programming problem is we don’t ever direct funds to actually solve those engineering problems. The political solution proposed by these “smart” leaders in the business community, who should darned well know better than this, is to just increase taxes, as if that somehow would fix this problem. They’ve completely lost their minds. An actual solution might look at the engineering problem, align the programming to address that problem, and have legislators act with some degree of collective responsibility towards the people they serve and refuse to corrupt the system for their own political benefit. That’s pretty much what a business would do if it intended to actually survive in the world of business.
The next time anyone asks me whether I’m interested in joining the Chamber, I’m just going to laugh in their face. They’re doing little more than enabling the problem, and doing nothing to actually fix it in any way. Why would I ever pay dues so that fools could pound on tables in front of our elected officials and demand such ignorant nonsense? I already get enough nonsense without having to actually fund it.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
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