When it comes to taxes, this year's gubernatorial race in Virginia pits two candidates against each other with drastically different views about whether or not you've been forking over enough of your hard-earned money to the government. Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam, each recently selected as their party's nominee, couldn't be further apart when it comes to tax hikes and tax relief.
Pundits may suggest that this race will show how voters are responding to the Trump administration, but taxpayers are smarter than that. This race is about whether Virginia taxpayers are interested in tax relief or would like to reward a candidate who championed one of the largest tax hikes in Virginia history.
State Senator Northam was one of the strongest supporters of a multi-billion dollar tax increase in 2013 that required families, small businesses, and low-income consumers to pay more for a transportation spending package. House Bill 2313 imposed a number of statewide tax hikes including a gas tax increase, a 6 percent sales tax increase, and a whopping 38 percent car sales tax increase.
But it went further, specifically targeting Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia taxpayers with a staggering 20 percent sales tax increase, a 150 percent higher real estate transfer tax, and a 3 percent hotel tax increase Northern Virginia.
Of the billions of dollars in higher taxes imposed on all Virginians, hundreds of millions were committed to light rail and mass transit projects. Voters statewide should look back over the four years since this tax hike passed and ask themselves whether Metro or any other rail project has improved at all in a way that made their commutes to work easier.
I suspect the answer is no.
Northam's record stands in stark contrast to the reform agenda proposed by Gillespie. Unlike Northam, Gillespie has laid out a comprehensive tax reform plan that will cut income taxes for all Virginia taxpayers for the first time since 1972. Gillespie's "Cutting Taxes for All Virginians" plan would reduce income taxes by 10 percent across the board. A typical family of four would get a tax cut of $1,300, resulting in tens of thousands of new jobs in Virginia.
That's the sort of money that can be used by taxpayers for healthcare, college tuition, home upgrades, a down payment on a new car, or even a much-needed vacation. This tax cut is phased in, relies on economic growth, and doesn't even require immediate spending cuts to core state government programs like education, healthcare, or public safety.
The Gillespie tax plan would go a long way in making Virginia more competitive with neighboring North Carolina, whose business climate ranks 11th in the country, or Tennessee who ranks 13th, compared to Virginia at 33rd.
Perhaps after looking around at his opponent(s), Northam realized not having a tax plan wasn't sufficient. He did announce during the Democrat primary that he supports lowering the 1.5 percent food tax. Taxpayers who were hit with massive sales and gas tax hikes in recent years thanks to Northam, however, are unlikely to take solace in this phony olive branch. His voting record and successful effort to drive up the cost of all other goods continues to speak for itself.
Voters will have plenty of time in the coming months to consider what this election is really about. And while editorial pages of numerous publications may spend a lot of ink trying to link the Virginia gubernatorial election to national issues or Trump, they're misguided and they will fail.
This election is about making a choice between friend of taxpayers Ed Gillespie, whose plan will save voters hundreds of dollars a year, and unapologetic tax-hiker Ralph Northam, who has no substantive pro-growth plan to provide tax relief to Virginians.
Paul Blair (@gopaulblair) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the strategic initiatives director at Americans for Tax Reform and a native of Virginia Beach, Va.
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