Tag Archives: Virginia

Yes, Virginia, You Do Pay More in Taxes, Part II

Source: County Executive Budget Presentation

Continuing my occasional series, today, I look at commercial tax rates. Considering the bellyaching by business over the difficult climate in Montgomery, especially compared to Fairfax, you’d think we really dun them on taxes.

Turns out that’s not the case. Our commercial tax rates are lower than all of our major regional competitors in Virginia, DC and Maryland. Commercial taxes in both Fairfax and DC are over 50% higher than in Montgomery.

Thinking about not only this chart but other available information, I draw two conclusions that may seem opposed but are utterly compatible.

It’s Never Enough

No matter what Montgomery does, it will never been good enough for the business community. A case in point is the reaction to the major zoning changes adopted by the previous County Council. These changes greatly simplified the code and made it much easier and quicker for developers to move forward with projects in Montgomery.

Based on the chatter today, you’d never know this occurred. The major complaint of Empower Montgomery’s action plan to improve the business climate last year was to ease further limits on development without demanding any further contributions by developers.

These complaints continue even as the County continues to take a very friendly attitude towards development. For example, after adopting a zoning plan that increased the value of land around White Flint tremendously, we are dropping millions to build a new Metro access tunnel.

Yes, the new tunnel will make it easier for pedestrians to access Metro safely but it will also increase the value of properties in the area. Perhaps the developers should kick in for it?

All of this is just the business community acting sensibly in its own interest. I am no more surprised by it than I am that unions want higher salaries with more benefits. It doesn’t make them evil, but it also doesn’t mean that we have to swallow their narrative whole.

Other Real Barriers Exist

Like all good narratives, the Montgomery is hostile to business narrative mixes up fact and fiction. The fact remains that commercial business growth remains very poor in Montgomery, as Adam Pagnucco has explained in-depth previously.

Montgomery faces real challenges when it comes to business. They just aren’t necessarily the ones we hear about related to taxes and development that seem to attract the loudest moans because of developer muscle in the county.

I hope to explore some of these in the future. Some are easier to solve than others. We could do more to make the county bureaucracy nimbler, market the county, and support local small businesses. The County Council could spend less time on sideshows and more on our major challenges. It’ll be a harder lift to move Montgomery closer to a major airport.

In response to the first post in this series, I heard a lot about the impact of income taxes in the county. I plan to take a look at our overall tax burden including income taxes in Part III.


Five Quick Takeaways from Last Night

Very Bad News for Maryland Republicans

If there was one lesson from last night, it’s that local Republicans cannot insulate themselves from this wave. It is a very strongly partisan era. No matter how much they tied themselves to the Trump mast or sailed away from his message they suffered.

In Maryland, Republicans went down big in Annapolis and Frederick. Republicans with strong local followings lost in Virginia. The areas in Virginia most like those that Maryland Republicans depend upon to win here – Loudoun and Prince William Counties – swung enormously against the Republicans.

Democrats win statewide in Virginia when they win these counties narrowly. Last night, they annihilated Republicans by 20 points. Neither Fairfax nor Prince William may have any more Republican delegates. Democrats also picked up seats in Loudoun.

This is terrible news for Maryland Republicans. Republican expectations of major gains in outer suburbs just got rolled back. Equally important, Larry Hogan now looks a lot more vulnerable than he did yesterday. It probably doesn’t help that he went down to Virginia to campaign for losing fear-mongering Trumpy candidate Ed Gillespie.

Organization is Important

Social media is not enough. Progressives talking to each other about how awful Republicans are doesn’t accomplish much. As much as I love blogs, action in the hard work of politics such as knocking on doors and other forms of meaningful voter contact to get out the message and the vote created the victory.

The effective deployment of huge numbers of Maryland volunteers played a critical role in getting out the vote in northern Virginia. Together with local volunteers, they helped create both impressive statewide victories and completely unexpected massive gains in the House of Delegates, which is utterly gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans.

Unquestionably, Trump fired up Democrats. There was a huge organic component of volunteers from resistance organizations that cannot be manufactured. But that surge needed to be channeled into effective organization. People need to go where they’re need, so kudos to people like Sens. Rich Madaleno and Roger Manno who spent yesterday in Frederick.

Yes, Trump and Federal Republicans are a Problem

There is no secret silent majority hidden from pollsters. Trump and the national Republicans are incredible millstones. As Todd Eberly explained, “Even if they don’t take the House, this was the stuff of nightmares for the GOP. A president at 36% and a Congress that can’t legislate is one helluva weight around the neck of the party.”

The Republicans face a legislative trap of their own making. They’ve promised their base wildly unrealistic, terrifically bad radical ideas that scare the public. Right now, they face a choice of disappointing their supporters or enacting them and angering the public – and possibly their own supporters when they discover what really happens.

Trump compounds these problems. His total unreliability and disloyalty toward legislative partners combined with his fecklessness and lack of knowledge about policy make him a terrible dealmaker. As it turns out, government by tweet doesn’t work.

Junk the Litmus Tests

Purity tests have become depressingly in vogue in the Democratic Party. Increasing numbers want to support only candidates they regard as meeting their litmus test and discarding others as heretics from the true faith.

Democrats spend too much time parsing candidates who are all progressive with the same goals. When elected, people like Ralph Northam and Tom Periello – both fine Democrats – face the same barriers to achievement. Don’t get mad at Democrats who compromise to push the agenda forward. It has worked very well for unquestionably progressive politicians like Chris Van Hollen and Jamie Raskin. Sure beats getting nothing done in order to remain untainted.

Ralph Northam was derided by many as too centrist. Whether or not he was a great campaigner, he was the right person in the right place. His moderation and reputation may have played a key role in reaching out to highly educated women who gave Democrats an important edge.

Medicaid expansion may come to Virginia as a result. Even if you regard single payer as the desired long-term solution, don’t knock providing health care to thousands more Virginians. That’s what the Democratic Party is all about. In short, stay focused on the goal, not comparatively small ideological differences. That’s how the Republicans got into this mess.

Authentic Diversity is Good for Democrats

Beyond major victories, the first two Latinas ever won election to the Virginia House. The very first transgender candidate ever won election to the state legislature, defeating a heinous politician who thrived on bigotry in the process. At the statewide level, an African American won election as Lieutenant Governor.

Authentic diversity occurs not because party leaders carefully balance tickets or pave the way for candidates from particular identity groups. It happens because candidates from various backgrounds jump into the political arena and do the same hard work of politics to build coalitions and support, as that is how nominations are won.

For example, Lt. Gov.-Elect Justin Fairfax ran four years ago and surprised by almost winning the nomination for Attorney General. Though he lost, he set himself up nicely to win the nomination and then the general election for Lt. Gov. this year. The two Latino winners sought office and ran hard in tough areas.

The key role for party leaders is not to downplay the chances of a candidate from Group X. In our partisan era, people seem very willing to vote for members of their party regardless of a different group. As Democrats have a diverse coalition, visible organic expression of it helps affirm the value of participation in it and fires up Democrats.

Postscript on Charlottesville

The citizens of Charlottesville sent  a powerful message in the wake of the horrific events foisted on their community. In 2017, 31% more people voted than four years ago, as compared to 16% across the state.  A stunning 85% voted for Northam and against Gillespie’s shameless stoking of racial tensions. A lopsided 64% did the same in surrounding Albermarle County.


Orange is the New Black: Gubernatorial Edition

Maryland has much more experience with corruption than Virginia, so I thought it might be helpful to offer a few tips to our sister state. After all, we had much of our political class arrested in the 1960s. The Old Line State can speak from experience.

Watch the Future McDonnell Income Taxes
Conviction doesn’t always end corruption or shamelessness. Spiro Agnew became the only person ever to resign the vice presidency after his 1967 tax evasion conviction for unreported income. That didn’t stop him from trying to deduct the bribe money he had to repay Maryland from his California taxes in 1989.

Make Your Marital Problems Convincing
The “I have no idea where the money for this Rolex or my daughter’s wedding reception came from because my wife and I are having marital problems” defense didn’t fly with the jury. Those supplements have stronger effects than realized if they expected them to believe that sad hodgepodge.

In contrast, Gov. Marvin Mandel had believable problems since he divorced the first Mrs. Mandel to marry the second–and won reelection after he left his first wife. Indeed, the source of Mandel’s corruption was his need to pay hotel bills and alimony.

Mandel’s first wife, Barbara or Bootsie, refused to leave the governor’s mansion stating “I will remain Mrs. Mandel” until the former first couple negotiated an alimony settlement. I would have hired her to negotiate for me anytime.

No Need to Grasp for the Smelling Salts, Virginia
The Commonwealth is no doubt worried about its honor and reputation in the wake of its first gubernatorial conviction. But have no fear, you can still look down on Maryland which is waaay ahead in terms of corruption and isn’t even in the race for national leaders. Virginia remains the mother of presidents, while Agnew is the only Marylander to serve as president or vice president–a jinx Martin O’Malley would like to break.

Maryland pols convicted in the same era as Vice President Agnew and Governor Mandel include:

Anne Arundel County Executive Joseph Alton
Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson
Baltimore County State’s Attoney Samuel Green, Jr.
Congressman William Mills
Speaker A. Gordon Boone
State Senator Clarence Mitchell III
Delegate James “Turk” Scott
U.S. Senator Daniel Brewster

And yet some still seem to think you just aren’t anyone in Maryland unless you’ve been indicted. The lack of Montgomery and Prince Georgians on the list is more testimony to our lack of influence then rather than our probity.

Good Governor, Shame about the Corruption
Ironically, despite the corruption problem that forced him to leave office, Marvin Mandel was considered an excellent, reformist governor. Similarly, McDonnell was well-regarded in Virginia until his Rolex and supplement problem came to light.